Appalachia Music

You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive

Pressley girls

The girls have been learning “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” written by Darrell Scott.

They learned the song from Patty Loveless who recorded it in 2001.

I’ve always enjoyed the song, the lyrics paint a powerful picture of the hardships of life. But since I read Ron Stephens piece titled “Reflections” the song seems even stronger to me.

Every time I hear the girls sing it I get chill bumps.

I hope you enjoyed the video as much as I do.


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  • Reply
    Gina Lee Smith
    July 27, 2020 at 2:43 pm

    They just keep getting better and better! Great rendition!

  • Reply
    July 27, 2020 at 12:22 pm

    Fantastic. Love it.

  • Reply
    July 26, 2020 at 3:44 pm

    One more thing: It has been a delight to watch and listen to Chitter and Chatter grow as musicians since y’all first placed instruments in their eager little hands!

  • Reply
    July 26, 2020 at 3:39 pm

    Lovely rendition.
    Ron Stephens comment caught my eye: “Sometimes there are things that need doing that can get you killed. But people do them anyway out of love and duty.” Made me think of conditions down in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas (BTW – not all “valleys” have mountains nearby): please send extra prayers and good vibes down there as they cope with the extremes of the corona virus and the aftermath of Hurricane Hanna.
    Also appreciated Conner Sites-Bowen comment about the abuse of capitalism. Looking ahead “to the seventh generation” would help us avoid some of it’s “traps”.
    Wonder if many of your readers have examples of family looking out for generations to come – or thinking they did (as the grandma in the song did).

  • Reply
    Gaye Blaine
    July 26, 2020 at 2:59 pm

    C and C have such talent keeping the old time music alive!! ( Do they have other names except Chitter and Chatter I’m wondering?)

  • Reply
    Leon Pantenburg
    July 26, 2020 at 10:57 am

    One of my favorites – excellent rendition!

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    July 26, 2020 at 10:50 am

    I think Chitter and Chatter did a fine job on that song. I just love the harmony. …Ken

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    July 26, 2020 at 10:28 am

    Good job! The song was very well done and I love the background…Chitter’s shop. She is getting as good at her stone cutting as she is her singing!
    Makes a Grandmother so very proud!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    July 26, 2020 at 9:33 am

    I think Katie is a good if not better than Patty Loveless!

  • Reply
    Rick Shepherd
    July 26, 2020 at 8:48 am

    Thank you Tipper…..The girls singing it moved me to look up the lyrics by Patty Loveless….My family history extends from northern Virginia to the Cumberland Falls, Kentucky area to the Reddies River area or western North Carolina…..The words meant a lot to me!

    You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive
    Patty Loveless
    In the deep dark hills of eastern Kentucky
    That’s the place where I trace my bloodline
    And it’s there I read on a hillside gravestone
    “You’ll never leave Harlan alive”
    Oh, my grandfather’s dad crossed the Cumberland Mountains
    Where he took a pretty girl to be his bride
    Said, “Won’t you walk with me, out of the mouth of this holler
    or we’ll never leave Harlan alive”
    Where the sun comes up about ten in the mornin’
    And the sun goes down about three in the day
    And you fill your cup with whatever bitter brew you’re drinkin’
    And you spend your life just thinkin’ of how to get away
    No one ever knew there was coal in them mountains
    Till a man from the northeast arrived
    Wavin’ hundred dollar bills, said, “I’ll pay you for your minerals”
    But he never left Harlan alive
    Grandma sold out cheap and they moved out west of Pineville
    To a farm where Big Richland River winds
    And I bet they danced them a jig
    And they laughed and sang a new song
    “Who said we’d never leave Harlan alive”
    But the times they got hard and tobacco wasn’t sellin’
    And old granddad knew what he’d do to survive
    He went and dug for Harlan coal
    And sent the money back to grandma
    But he never left Harlan alive
    Where the sun comes up about ten in the mornin’
    And the sun goes down about three in the day
    And you fill your cup with whatever bitter brew you’re drinkin’
    And you spend your life diggin’ coal from the bottom of your grave
    You’ll never leave Harlan alive

  • Reply
    Connor Sites-Bowen
    July 26, 2020 at 8:20 am

    One of my favorite songs of these hills. A deep reflection on the many traps our capitalist system has sprung upon us, and the resilience and hope we keep inside. Beautifully sung – those young women are skilled and heartful!

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    July 26, 2020 at 8:15 am

    Thanks Chatter and Chitter and Tipper. As the song tells, there has been a heap of tragedy in the coal fields. Sometimes there are things that need doing that can get you killed. But people do them anyway out of love and duty.

    That song reminds me of a story my Dad’s best friend told. As a young man he worked in the mines in Harlan and the place had a bad reputation. So he was kinda afraid of the local boys until one day he heard two of them talking when they couldn’t see him. One of them said, “Them McCreary County boys are rough.” After that he was OK.

    It has been a long time but I used to hear “Ain’t none of us gonna leave this world alive.” It was a way to stay grounded in the basics.

    Have a blessed Sunday you all.

  • Reply
    Margie Goldstein
    July 26, 2020 at 7:40 am

    It was great! The girls harmonize together so sweetly! That Chatter plays a mean guitar! I thoroughly enjoyed it, especially the refrain. When ( if ever) we are allowed to have fairs again, I know some sure fire winners in NC…. Have a blessed Sabbath y’all!!!

  • Reply
    Julie Hughes Moreno
    July 26, 2020 at 7:29 am

    I too have always loved that song. My Mother’s people were from there and I have heard that term growing up.

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