Americana Highways is pleased to present this premiere of “The Ballad of Zona Abston” from Tellico’s upcoming album Woven Waters. This song was written by Anya Hinkle, and features Hinkle on guitar and vocals, Greg “Stig” Stiglets on bass, Aaron Ballance on dobro, Jed Willis on mandolin and John Doyle on bouzouki.
This is a bluegrass old-time ballad of a woman’s 75 years living on a Tennessee mountain that’s destined to be an instant classic. The lyrics will clarify for you that in some places, things are the same as they were long ago, in terms of real economic struggles to survive and the independent reliance that springs from that. The acoustic instruments are irresistible and fresh supporting the genuine tale of hardship.
I met Zona in the spring of 2017 through my friend “Hippie” Jack Stoddart. In addition to being a photographer, videographer and music promoter through his festival “Jammin’ at Hippie Jack’s” and the Council for Americana Roots Music (COARM), Hippie Jack is involved with an ongoing community development project in Overton and Fentress Counties in middle Tennessee. Many of the communities in these counties are remnants of mining towns that popped up in the early half of the 1900s. Although the mining died out mid century and was completely finished by the 70s, many of the people that were living there did not leave. These people have stories of surviving the mining years and post mining years, mostly scratching out a living as best they could in the face of poverty–lack of education, health care, job security, and any safety net at all. Their legacy continues to the next generation”
As part of an informal project that connects songwriters to people in the communities he’s helping, Hippie Jack introduced me to Zona. Over her kitchen table, she told me the story of her childhood, her parents, siblings, and children and gave me a sense of a world view from someone that has only herself to rely on, and her community and family to some extent. Her perspective on life is something I tried to capture in this song. — Anya Hinkle