Every year, Marc Silver retreats to the woods with two artist friends for phone-free communion with Mother Nature. They go out to a cabin in Dushore, Pa., about three and a half hours from Philly (an hour from Wilkes-Barre) and not far from Ricketts Glen State Park. He’s the only musician of the three, but he writes, and they cook and drink wine. Upon their arrival, they hit up the local farmers markets to stock the kitchen, and it was there that Silver found the inspiration for his new album, A Miners' Town. His fifth LP is a little less bluegrass and a little more darkness, due in part to the ominous nature of the situation out in rural Pennsylvania—and in loads of other parts of our state—where fracking is wreaking havoc.
Evoking a little Leonard Cohen and Johnny Cash, two touchstones for personal and bluntly bleak lyricism, A Miners’ Town’s songs are a mix of biographical, fictional and non-fictional tales, primarily ruminations on the effect of the shale mining industry. This batch of songs is gritty, gloomy and, quite frankly, angry. Silver’s frustrated and plagued with the burden of recognizing deception, theft and greed. Check his title track: Every barrel is a tomb and another town left to die/Abandoned homes line the town’s main street/Bullets hit the windows and they shatter with a scream ‘tween the alleys/Old homes crackle in the smoldering fires/Burning all the things that were made from love inside.
“It became apparent what was happening in the region, and you could see that there was a lot of drilling, pipe-lining and a lot of drump trucks,” he told PW. “So, for this record, I ended up doing a lot of research into testimonials of farmers and their stories of people getting sick and their wells getting poisoned.”
The Missouri native and University of the Arts graduate is 37 now, a veteran of the Philly gigging scene. He’s been performing with his band, The Stonethrowers, around town for years, but this latest record is a testament to his growing and evolving songwriting skills. But life isn’t always so rosy. Silver’s got a day job teaching music to kids at the Shipley School, and he often dishes out his own money to put on a show. “I’m in the habit of paying my band,” he says. If only those frackers would cough it up for the damage they’ve done.
In Memoriam: Lou Reed