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Track 10–From When We Were Young (2011)

When The Mountains Cry

Tom Russell, David Mansfield, Bug Music OBO Jocada Music; Bug Music OBO Frontera Music


A lilac comes on a poisoned thorn

It has roots dirty and torn

Youngin’s a playin’ as the black crow flies

Mama’s weeping

Hear the mountains cry


There was another, a wild dirt flower

Cold was her heart and as dark as dire

Tears on the ground where her love did die

‘Neath the bloody moon

Hear the mountains cry


Oh dig his grave, narrow and deep

Set a jug of whiskey by his thirsty feet

And lay two pennies on his roving eyes

Two women wailing, as the mountain cry

Oh the wind blows weary and the willows sigh

Rivers of sorrow when the mountains cry

Rivers of sorrow when the mountains cry


This is one of my wife’s favorite songs—I’m not so sure how to interpret that. This tragic love song that eventually leads to murder was featured in the movie “Songcatcher” that was released in 2000. Most of the  movie was filmed not far from where I live in the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina.


“Songcatcher” is loosely based on the life and work of Olive Dame Campbell, the founder of the John C. Campbell Folk School that is located in the western North Carolina mountain village of Brasstown. The movie is about an English musicologist who is researching and collecting folk music from the Appalachian Mountains.   

For the longest time, I thought this song was an old traditional mountain tune. After performing the song at a concert several years ago, one attendee shared that his grandfather used to play the tune on the banjo. More research turned up the present day songwriters—Tom Russell and David Mansfield.