I’m a mud-caked-barefoot kid lying on the ground under the maple tree. Dad is sitting in that blue plastic lawn chair absent-mindedly picking some notes on his fiddle. I sit up and scoot closer to rest against his knee, hauling up the strap of my favorite faded denim overalls. I hear Mama in the kitchen rattling around and the smell of cabbage and cornbread make its way across the yard. The hot summer sun crests across the Blue Ridge, carelessly setting the sky ablaze, throwing around its brilliant hues– pinks and oranges and yellows.
I hear the increasing rattle of the train approaching on the tracks just over the hill, then the piercing whistle. The sound is emblazoned on my soul, it’s the sound of my mama’s people, it’s as much the sound of home as it is freedom. I won’t know this until after the fact, but in the 30 years I’m away, I’ll always live close enough to the track to hear the rumble and the wale. I flash on the large oval picture in my Nannie’s front bedroom of my great-granddaddy Dan, engineer on the N & W. I never met him but I know the stories by heart, the stories that sing me home, the stories that lend themselves to 3 chords and the truth.
Back in the embrace of the mountains and the love of Mama and Daddy, writing songs again, that train whistle still calls…
Raised at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, Holly Renee Allen is the embodiment of the Red Dirt and Appalachian music prevalent throughout the region. Allen was born and bred from generations of country and bluegrass musicians. She was raised on her parents classic country and bluegrass and her sisters’ hippie rock n roll. A big dreamer from a young age, Allen left that back porch to reside in Nashville at the age of seventeen with nothing but two hundred dollars to her name and a song. She has lived and performed throughout the southeast and made a name for herself in songwriter circles in Nashville, Texas, and Atlanta, Georgia, playing such revered clubs as Smith’s Old Bar, Eddie’s Attic, and the Red Light Cafe. She’s had the good fortune of working with legendary producers Johnny Sanlin (Allman Brothers Band, Widespread Panic) and Marty Kearns (Shawn Mullins, Indigo Girls, Jennifer Nettles), as well as stellar musicians Bill Stewart, Pete Carr, David Hood, Spooner Oldham and Scott Boyer.
Once again residing at the foot of the Blue Ridge to care for her parents, her sights set on an old abandoned farmhouse that backs up to the rolling hills, Allen has allowed the story of her life to pour itself out of her heart in the studio. Allen’s fifth studio album, Appalachian Piecemeal, is a vocal love letter to her greatest influences, the musicians her in family, and the sounds of the valley that made her the woman she is today. With haunting recollections from her father and story songs that serve as the autobiography of her family’s migration to the Shenandoah Valley, Allen paints a glorious portrait of small-town mountain life, what it’s like to leave it, and what it’s like to go home again.