Zoe & Cloyd - Chestnut Mountain" [Single]
  • Chestnut Mountain
Despite its distinctive flavor, the appeal of bluegrass music is broad enough to have gained fans literally the world over. Still, direct, personal ties to the music and the communities in which it originated can lend an extra dimension to a performance, and just such a connection underpins the latest single from Organic Records’ Zoe & Cloyd.

With its themes of memory and the losses created by suburbanization and rural dislocation, “Chestnut Mountain” is a moving tale that’s all the more compelling for being based on John Cloyd Miller’s family history — one that not only embodies the lyric’s themes, but connects to bluegrass’s earliest days through his grandfather. Jim Shumate was not only the inheritor of the family’s Chestnut Mountain homeplace, but also a one-time fiddler for iconic bluegrass artists Bill Monroe and Flatt & Scruggs — in fact, it was he who brought Monroe and Scruggs together in late 1945, paving the way for the explosive musical combination that created bluegrass itself.

"‘Chestnut Mountain’ is a song I wrote about our family homeplace in Wilkes County, NC,” says Miller, who sings lead on the song. “My late grandfather, bluegrass fiddler Jim Shumate, was born there in 1921. There is so much history on that mountain. When I was young, the whole area was relatively remote and undeveloped aside from a few almost impassable roads. Later, a developer came in and tried to get my grandparents to sell their part, but to no avail. To my grandparents, that land was priceless. I'm so thankful that they held out and that my cousins and I have this place to share with the next generation.”

“I remember Grandpa saying he used to hear his Uncle Erbie playing fiddle from across the holler when he was a boy,” he continues. “When I'm up there, I always try to imagine what it was like for him growing up there. I picture the cabin, the farm animals and the garden and I always listen for the sound of the fiddle wafting on the breeze."

Deeply nostalgic, yet precise in its sentimentality, “Chestnut Mountain” matches the elegant minimalism of its words with a sensitive ebb and flow in the harmonies and instrumental backing from Miller (guitar), Natalya Zoe Weinstein (fiddle, vocals), banjoist Bennett Sullivan and bassist Kevin Kehrberg. With its empathetic solos, delicate touches of dialogue between vocals and instruments, and a finely tuned build-up that culminates in an emotional, alternating repetition of the narrator’s basic wish — “I want to go back in time” — that’s echoed by the rise and fall of unison lines from banjo and fiddle before the final, restrained closing, this is a performance that exemplifies the authenticity that lies at the heart of Zoe & Cloyd’s music.

About Zoe & Cloyd
Zoe & Cloyd spring from deep roots in American music. Founding members of the acclaimed Americana trio, Red June, and long-time veterans of the Asheville, NC music scene, Natalya Zoe Weinstein and John Cloyd Miller released their second full-length album, Eyes Brand New, in spring of 2017 and their third, I Am Your Neighbor in 2019. Highlighting their emotive songwriting and signature harmonies, this album showcased the breadth of their collective musical spirit, seamlessly combining original folk, country, old-time and bluegrass with sincerity and zeal. Zoe & Cloyd’s debut recording, Equinox (2015), was met with high acclaim and the pair has continued to gain momentum with a 1st place win at the prestigious FreshGrass Festival Duo Contest along with performances at MerleFest, Music City Roots and more. In 2020, Zoe & Cloyd were the first artists featured in Will & Deni Films' Pandemic Arts Series, and they will appear in Season 5 of the nationally syndicated PBS show, David Holt's State of Music in 2021.
  • Members:
    Natalya Zoe Weinstein and John Cloyd Miller
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  • Profile Last Updated:
    08/19/23 20:05:39

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