Ask anyone who has worked on Mountain Stage or has been to the show more than a few times and they’ll tell you picking a favorite show or act would be like asking someone to choose their favorite child. There’s simply been too much incredible music to whittle it down to just one or two favorites.
That remains ever-so-true for me, too, but this post is my hands-down personal favorite of the ‘Songs From the Doc’ series I’ve put together. It’s not just because of the inclusion of R.E.M. and how great their crew has been to West Virginia Public Broadcasting and to me personally. I’m a rock and roll guy at heart (it’s fair to say the music of The Band has changed my life) but, I have really come to grasp the importance of Bob Thompson’s incredible playing.
The Mountain Stage archive is massive and this slice of it proves it with performances that are–to steal a phrase about the show widely used by others–of “Smithsonian grade.”
R.E.M. – “Losing My Religion”
When R.E.M. shared the Mountain Stage documentary on their website and social media channels, their fans have begged for the release of this entire set and for good reason. With the band only playing three shows in 1991 to promote the release of their chart-topping release Out of Time, their appearance on Mountain Stage has appropriately reached legendary status.
Billy Bragg – “Tank Park Salute”
The most fascinating part about music for me is its potential to be catalyst for personal discovery and its ability to articulate the way we feel in such a way that we couldn’t (or hadn’t been able to) express ourselves. Of all the songs included in ‘Mountain Stage at 30: A Radio Retrospective’ none more hits as close to home for one member of the Mountain Stage family as this tune does. I could tell the story myself but, I’ve only witnessed it second hand. It’s all best left up to Mountain Stage crew member Lance Schrader. Ask him sometime, and I’m sure he’ll have no problem telling you about the bond he’s forged with Bragg thanks to this song.
Bob Thompson – “Blues for America”
Although Bob Thompson had been a frequent guest on Mountain Stage since the very beginning (he was even one of the acts on the March 1981 pilot show), it wasn’t until 1991 when he became a member of the Mountain Stage Band.
This tune, penned by Thompson himself is included on his Live On Mountain Stage release from 2007 and was recorded at the Paramount Theater Bristol, Tennessee in July 2006.
Thompson is true a treasure to Mountain Stage and West Virginia and we sure are glad to have him.
The Band – “The Shape I’m In”
The only show Mountain Stage’s audio wizard Francis Fisher ever missed was when The Band was booked at the last minute in January 1994. Assistant engineer Dave McClanahan took the reigns and had to deal with some seemingly impossible technical issues but somehow found a way to make the show go on. The results are exactly what you’d expect.
Editor’s Note: Mountain Stage at 30: Songs From the Doc is a multi-part series that serves as a companion to a recent documentary that details the history of the show. Stay tuned to wvpublic.org as the series is rolled out over the Christmas and New Year holidays.