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On the Front Row with Still on the Hill

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Hailing from the Ozarks, Still on the Hill features a unique brand of Arkansan "folkgrass." The accomplished multi-instrumental and 2010 Governor’s Arts Award-winning duo of Kelly Mullhollan and Donna Stjerna has produced seven albums since 2001. The group’s repertoire is primarily their own original compositions interspersed with new arrangements of traditional songs.

Still on the Hill performs songs from their newest CD, "Ozark: A Celebration in Song." The project was born out of their travels in the Ozarks and from collecting song ideas from their audiences during their performances. Mullhollan and Stjerna write about the amazing folks and places they know and love with the belief that the unsung heroes of the Ozarks best reflect what makes the hills distinctive. They hope that by telling their stories in song, they will be nurturing an ongoing tradition.

TRANSCRIPT

APPLAUSE

THANK YOU SO MUCH.  HOW NICE TO SEE YOU ALL.  DON AND I PLAYED LOTS OF DIFFERENT KIND OF SONGS.  IT WAS HARD TO FIGURE OUT WHAT WE WILL DO. WE'VE BEEN SELECTING SONGS FROM STORIES OF ALL SORTS OF PEOPLE FROM AROUND THE THE OZAARK. THEY'RE NOT FAMOUS.  THEY LIVED A LIFE OF SIMPLE LIFE.  OTIS AND OCIE.  YOU READY.  HERE IT GOES. DADDY OTIS, THEY SAY, SLAVED HIS LIFE AT THE MILL JUST TO MAKE SURE HIS CHILDREN COULD EAT. MISS OCIE, THEY SAY, SHE COULD DANCE ALL NIGHT, GAVE IT UP FOR THE LORD, PREACHER MAN GAVE HER FRIGHT. TOGETHER THEY LIVED, RAISED THEIR KIDS ON THE LAND PUT THEIR FAITH IN THE WORD WHILE THEIR HOPES SLIPPED LIKE SAND. WELL OTIS AND OCIE, THEY LIVED IN A SHACK WITH AN OLD GRAY MULE, SHE LIVED OUT BACK IN A BARN THAT ONCE CAUGHT FIRE, THEY RAISED THEIR CHICKENS AND CORN AND WHEN WILLIE SUE WAS BORN, IT WAS HARD TO FEED SO MANY MOUTHS. SO OTIS HE WORKED WITH HIS HANDS ON THE EARTH, TO KEEP HIS FAMILY FROM STARVING. DADDY OTIS HE'D SNEAK TO THE DANCE FOR A DRINK AND STAYED THERE ALL NIGHT DREAMING. MISS OCIE SHE'D WAIT AND RELY ON HER FAITH TO KEEP HIM FROM THE DEPTHS OF ABANDON. THEY WORKED EVERY DAY IN A DESPERATE WAY AS ONLY PEOPLE LIVING ON DREAMS CAN AND ONE DAY THEY TELL, DADDY OTIS HE FELL AND LEFT MISS OCIE THERE A-CRYING. WITH 4 KIDS ALONE SHE WOULD MAKE THEIR HOME, WISHING AND PRAYING AND A DREAMING. MISS OCIE ONE NIGHT AWOKE TO THE SIGHT, OF HER GRANDMOTHER'S GHOST BY HER SIDE. "MISS OCIE" SHE SAID, "YOU CAN'T BRING BACK THE DEAD, SO WHY ARE YOU LAYING THERE CRYING? GO HOP THE NEXT TRAIN HELP EASE THE PAIN, OF YOUR NIECE LIVING OVER IN SHARPSBURG . HER BROTHER IS BAD AND IT'S MAKING ME SAD, KNOWING THAT HE'S DOING SISSY WRONG." OTIS WORKED THE MILL BUT HE SOON HAD HIS FILL OF CUTTING THEM FORESTS INTO LUMBER. BUT HE NEVER DID STOP 'TIL HIS HEART IT DID STOP AND HE LEFT HIS FAMILY FOREVER. MISS OCIE LIVES ON BUT HER MIND'S ALMOST GONE, ON A GOOD DAY SHE KNOWS HER OWN NAME. IN A BED IN A ROOM, SHE LIVES IN THE GLOOM WONDERING WHEN THE GOOD LORD WILL TAKE HER. THEY LIVED BY THE WORD BUT THEY NEVER HAD HEARD OF LIVING THEIR LIVES FOR THE MOMENT. NOW OTIS IS GONE, BUT HIS MEMORY LIVES ON IN THE FRAIL, EMPTY SHELL THAT IS OCIE. [APPLAUSE]

THANK YOU.THANK YOU VERY MUCH  THAT'S GOT TO BE FUN.  SINCE THAT WAS MY FIRST SONG, WHICH IS PART OF THE OZARK JOURNEY. WRITTEN ABOUT THE SAME YEAR. THIS WAS ACTUALLY THE FIRST SONG SHE WROTE PERIOD. STRANGLE ENOUGH, SHE STARTED VERY LATE IN LIFE WRITING SONGS. WHEN I MET HER SHE'D ONLY WRITTEN A FEW SONGS.  WHEN I MET HER IN THE RECORDING STUDIO AND I ASKED HER, SHE PLAYED ME THE SONG WE'RE GETTING READY TO PLAY YOU.  THAT'S WHAT KNOCKED ME OFF MY FEET.  NOW SHE'S WRITTEN 6 OR 700 SONGS.

I KEEP CHANGING THE NUMBER. FIRST I SAID I MET HIM 20 YEARS AGO IN THE SONG AND 30 YEARS AGO.  WE JUST DID THE MATH AND IT'S BEEN 38 YEARS AGO.  I MADE AN OLD FIDDLE MAKER MADE BOZE WHEN I GRADUATED FROM HIGH SCHOOL.  HE WAS SO INSPIRING TO ME AND FOR THE NEXT 25 YEARS OR SO, I DREAMED GOING BACK AND FINDING HIM AGAIN AND BUYING ONE OF HIS FIDDLES.  I THOUGHT IT WOULD BE WONDERFUL TO OWN ONE OF THE FIDDLES.  THEY WERE BEAUTIFUL. THE THING I REMEMBER ABOUT HIS CABIN I NEVER SEEN THE PROFIT.  HE HAD A LITTLE SHACK AND LITTLE ROCKING CHAIR.  WHEN I WENT BACK, JUST BEFORE HE PASSED AWAY, IT WAS NOTHING LIKE I REMEMBER THE SHACK WAS EVEN MORE RUN DOWN.  MAYBE THERE WAS A ONLY A COUPLE BEAT UP FIDDLES.  I WROTE A SONG ABOUT HIM BECAUSE I THOUGHT THIS WAS THE WAY TO KEEP HIS LEGACY ALIVE.

TONIGHT IS A VERY SPECIAL PERFORMANCE FOR MR. BOZE. WE ARE SO EXCITED THIS HAS BEEN A LONG TIME COMING.

WE'VE BEEN TRYING TO FIND ONE EVER SINCE THEN.

WE STRUCK GOLD TWO DAYS AGO AND WE HAVE A MR. BOZE FIDDLE AND IT HAS NEVER BEEN PLAYED.  IT'S GETTING READY TO BE PLAYED FOR THE FIRST TIME. IT IS A SPECIAL FIDDLE.  IT ACTUALLY GOT A LIBERTY BILL CARVED IN THE BACK.

IT'S GOT THE LIBERTY BELL. HE MADE THIS FIDDLE IN 1976.

WE WANT TO THANK ROBERT FROM RUSSELLVILLE WHO MADE IT POSSIBLE FOR US TO HAVE THIS.

THIS IS CALLED ODE TO MR. BOZE. MET HIM 20 YEARS AGO, HE WAS ANCIENT THEN, BET HE'S BEEN AROUND THE SUN 100 TIMES. DON'T KNOW WHAT POSSESSED ME TO VISIT HIM AGAIN, CURIOUS IF HE WAS STILL ALIVE. HIS OLE WEATHER-BEATEN SHACK HAD GONE TO RACK-N-RUIN, THE WAY IT WAS BACK THEN I DON'T RECALL. BUT I DO REMEMBER HIS OLE COFFEE CAN SPITTOON AND ALL THOSE HANDMADE FIDDLES ON THE WALL. OLE MR. BOZE, OLE MR. BOZEHAT FIDDLE MAKIN' MAN! HE TOOK HIS FAVORITE FIDDLE DOWN, BLEW OFF YEARS OF DUST, HELD IT LIKE A MOTHER HOLDS HER BABE. THE A STRING IT WAS MISSING AND THE OTHER 3 WERE RUST, BUT HE TUNED IT UP AND PLAYED IT ANYWAY. SHAKY FINGERS FUMBLED ON LIKE A BLIND MAN IN THE DARK, PLAYING EACH AND EVERY NOTE HE COULD FIND. HE PLAYED A TUNE OR TWO THEN HE WAILED ON OLD JOE CLARK, PLAYING IT AS IF IT WAS THE LAST TIME. OLE MR. BOZE, OLE MR. BOZEHAT FIDDLE MAKIN' MAN! IN THE HEART OF THE OZARKS, THE OLD MAN LIVED HIS LIFE, A SIMPLE ONE WITH NO GREAT TALES OF FAME. BUT TO ME HE IS A LEGEND, IF ONLY IN MY MIND, AND IN THIS SONG HIS MEMORY WILL REMAIN. AS I THINK ABOUT HIM NOW, I WISH THAT HE HAD MORE, I'VE NEVER SEEN SUCH POVERTY AND STRIFE. BUT WHO'S TO SAY WHAT'S RICH, LORD, WHO'S TO SAY WHAT'S POOR? HE HAD A WEALTH OF MUSIC IN HIS LIFE. OLE MR. BOZE, OLE MR. BOZEHAT FIDDLE MAKIN' MAN!

[APPLAUSE]

THANK YOU.

THANK YOU.

IT'S A WONDERFUL STORY WE GETTING READY TO TELL YOU. VERY MOVING STORY.  THIS IS ED STILLLYY IT'S CLOSE DO EUREKA SPRINGS.  ED LIVES UP THE HILL LUCKILY.  HE WAS A HOMESTEADER AND LIVED THERE HIS WHOLE LIFE.  LIVED WHOLE LIFE WITHOUT ELECTRICITY, RAISED FIVE CHILDREN.  SOMEHOW OR ANOTHER MADE HUNDREDS OF GUITARS AND INSTRUMENTS.

AND GAVE THEM ALL AWAY FREE TO CHILDREN.  AMAZING.

THAT'S THE FIDDLE AND OF COURSE THIS IS THE GUITAR. NOT LIKE ANY OTHER GUITAR.

THEY'RE CHARMING.

ALL THE GUITAR, ED MADE OVER THE YEARS ARE DIFFERENT.  THERE'S ONLY ONE OF THINGS AND HE CALLED THAT THE BUTTERFLY GUITAR.  I'M GOING TO GIVE YOU A NICKEL OR TWO HERE, BECAUSE THERE'S MORE HERE THAT MEETS THE EYE.  FOR GUITAR PLAYERS OUT THERE, THIS GOT A THREE PIECE BAT.  ED NAILED THIS TOGETHER.  IT'S NOT GLUED AND IT'S NOT GOING ANYWHERE.  HE USED ALL THE WOOD FROM HIS PROPERTY AND HE CUTS DOWN THE TREES.  THIS IS A LITTLE WALNUT, MOSTLY OAK ON THE FRONT.  THIS IS A DOOR HINGE FROM THE HALLER.  THIS IS A STAKE BONE.

POUR CHOP OF THE PORK CHOP OF THE STAKE BONE.

HE'S GOT A LITTLE BIT OF DRIED MEAT BACK HERE.  THE FRONT ON THIS INSTRUMENT IS MADE FROM BRAISING RODS, WELDING TOOL.  INSIDE, WE GOT ALL KINDS OF STUFF.

MINE HAS A CHAIN SAW SPROC, CKET

HE'S A VERY RELIGIOUS MAN. IT SAY, TRUE FAITH, TRUE LIGHT, HAVE FAITH IN GOD.

ON EVERY INSTRUMENT THAT HE CARVED.

THIS IS A VERY BEAUTIFUL STORY ALL OF THESE CHILDREN HE'S GIVEN INSTRUMENTS TO. THERE'S MORE TO IT.  AT ONE TIME, WE WERE VISITING ED. HE'S STILL ALIVE.  BECAUSE OF HIS HEALTH, HE'S STILL FINE. HE TOLD ME A STORY THAT WAS SO FANTASTIC AND IT WAS KIND OF A VISION THAT HE HAD WHEN HAD HAD A HEART CHECK.  HE WAS OUT WITH THE MULE ALL BY HIMSELF. I WON'T TELL YOU ANYMORE BECAUSE IT'S ALL IN THE SONG. WE WROTE THIS TOGETHER AND IT'S A TRIBUTE TO ED AND IT'S FROM ED'S PERSPECTIVE AND TO HIS RELIGIOUS FEELING.  IT SOUND A LITTLE FUNNY AND YOU MIGHT ADJUST YOUR EARS SLIGHTLY.  SO THIS IS CALLED TAKE ME TO THE OTHER SIDE.

THAT OZARK SUN WAS BEATING DOWN, DROPPED MY PLOW TO THE ROCKY GROUND, THE WORLD TURNED BLACK IN A HEART ATTACK AND A VISION PASSED BEFORE MY EYES WAS I DEAD? OR ALIVE? I SAID, "LORD, TAKE ME TO THE OTHER SIDE." I BECAME A GREAT TORTOISE SWIMMING LIKE HELL, 5 LITTLE CHILDREN CLINGING TO MY SHELL, ACROSS A RAGING RIVER DEEP AND WIDE THE DAY I HEARD THE LORD CONFIDE, "SHED YOUR VANITY, SHED YOUR PRIDE, AND I'LL SEE YOU MAKE IT TO THE OTHER SIDE. I KNEW THAT MOMENT MY FATE WAS SEALED WHEN THE LORD TOLD ME HE'D MAKE ME A DEAL, HE'D DELIVER MY CHILDREN TO THAT SHORE AND SHOW ME WHAT THESE HANDS ARE FOR, TO BUILD GUITARSN HIS NAME THAT'S WHAT I'LL DO UNTIL MY DYING DAY. SO I GRABBED AN AXE MY SON AND ME, WE FELLED A BIG OLE WALNUT TREE. I SAWED THAT WOOD UP INTO BOARDS, MADE A GUITAR FOR THE LORD AND THE LORD, LOOKED DOWN AND SMILED, WHEN I GAVE IT AWAY TO A LITTLE CHILD. PORK CHOP BONE WHITTLED FOR A BRIDGE, TAIL PIECE MADE FROM A RUSTY OLE HINGE. DOOR SPRINGS, SAW BLADES MOUNTED IN THE MIDDLE, LORD LOVES THE SOUND WHEN THEM OLE PARTS JIGGLE, SAWED OFF FRETS FROM A BRAISING ROD, CARVED ON THE TOPTRUE FAITH TRUE LIGHT HAVE FAITH IN GOD. WELL, I BUILT A GUITAR AND HUNDREDS WOULD FOLLOW, FOR NEARLY EVERY CHILD IN HOGSCALD HOLLOW. NOW I'M OLD AND MOVING SLOW, BUT HIS LOVE STILL CARRIES ME WHEREVER I GO, THOUGH I WALK WITH A CANE, STILL I REJOICE IN MY SAVIOR'S NAME. LORD, MAYBE SOMEDAY YOU'LL CALL ME AGAIN, WALK WITH ME TO THE RIVER'S END; I HOPE YOU'RE PROUD OF ALL I'VE DONE, I'VE KEPT MY PROMISES, EVERY ONE. NOW I'LL LOOK INTO YOUR EYES, AND PRAY, "LORD, TAKE ME TO THE OTHER SIDE."

[APPLAUSE]

THANK YOU.

WE'RE GOING TO DO PROBABLY ONE OF THE NEWEST OF OUR OZARK JOURNEY SONG.  THE STORIES KEEP POURING OUT.  WE KEEP HAVING PEOPLE TAKE US TO PLACES AND TELL US MORE STORIES. WE WANT TO KEEP GATHERING STORIES.  WE DON'T WANT THOSE PROJECTS TO STOP BECAUSE IT'S BEEN SO REWARDING.

THIS ONE CAME FROM RICHARD HOWARD.

HE WANT TO SHARE US A STORY ABOUT A YOUNG GIRL NAMED DENY HILL HIS GREAT AUNT.  HE TOOK US TO HER GRAVE WAY BACK IN THE HILL.  THE SECOND TIME WE WENT TO GO VISIT THIS SACRED PLACE, ATM WAS FILMING. DENNY LEE HILL WAS ONE OF THE MOST HISTORIC STONES. A LOVELY BRIGHT RED AUTUMN LEAF, FLOATED DOWN FROM A MAPLE TREE LANDED ON A GRAVE IN FRONT OF ME, LIKE THE CRIMSON PETTICOATS OF  DENY LEE HILL BILL CHINOUTH AND JOE FORBUSH, TOOK HER TO THE RIVE COVERED HER WITH STONES, SHE WAS BARELY 3 YEARS OLD DENY LEE HILL THE STORY'S CARVED ON HER TOMBSTONE HOW THOSE MEN WENT BACK AND ROBBED HER HOME WHILE HER MA & PA SEARCHED THE RIVER BED TILL THEY FOUND THEIR DARLIN'ENY HILL DEAD THOSE 2 MEN WERE HANGED FOR THEIR CRIME, BETWEEN 2 ROCKS ON THE MOUNTAIN SIDE RICHARD HOWARD TOOK US THERE, WE ALL WHISPERED A SILENT PRAYEROR DENY LEE HILL AND AS I WALKEDETWEEN THOSE STONS MASSIVE TOWERS WHERE FLESH AND BONE PAID THE PRICEONG AGO FOR DENY LEE HILL AN UNEXPECTED AUTUMN BREEZE BRUSHED ACROSS THE MAPLE TREES CARPETED THE GROUND, ALL AROUND ME LIKE THE CRIMSON PETTICOATS F DENY LEE.HIL SO I PICKED UP A PERFECT LEAF PUT IT IN MY POCKET AS AN OFFERING I'LL PRESS IT IN A BOOK REMEMBERING DENY LEE HILL DENY LEE HILL

[APPLAUSE].

THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

SHALL WE DO ANOTHER ONE? WHAT DO YOU THINK?  WE WILL.

THANK YOU SO MUCH.  WE'RE GOING TO DO YOU ANOTHER ONE.

THIS IS A BRAND NEW SONG THAT DONNA WROTE.  THIS MIGHT BE MY FAVORITE SONG SHE EVER WRITTEN.  THAT'S A HARD THING TO DECIDE WHEN YOU GOT 6 OR 700 SONGS TO CHOOSE FROM. IT'S A BEAUTIFUL SONG.  I LIKE IT SO MUCH, I STOLE IT FROM HER.  I'M GOING TO SING IT. THROUGH MY OPEN WINDOW I SEE

YOU BRIGHT MOON TONIGHT YOU SEEM RESTLESS, SO VERY RESTLESS WHEN YOU'RE THIS RESTLESS CANNOT SLEEP SO I GET MY GUITAR AND WRITE YOU A SONG YOU SMILEIKE A CHESHIRE CAT THEN YOU'RE GONE OH HOW MANY SONGS HAVE BEEN WRITTEN ABOUT YOU? DOWN THROUGH THE AGESN MANUSCRIPT PAGES? IN MARGINS OF BIBLESONKS SANG YOUR PRAISES OUT IN THE DESERT IN BEDOUAN TENTS, IN A DARK CITY ON A LONELY PARK BENCH, LOVERS AND OTHERS, BASK IN YOUR LIGHT, WHILE I SING THIS SWEET SONG, TO YOU TONIGHT. THROUGH MY OPEN WINDOW I SEE YOU BRIGHT MOON TONIGHT YOU'RE SO LOVELY, INCREDIBLY LOVELY WHEN YOU'RE THIS LOVELY CANNOT SLEEP WORDS THEY FLOOD THROUGH ME, JUST LIKE THE TIDE I SHIVER AND SHIMMER LIKE A BLUSHING BRIDE OH HOW MANY POEMS HAVE BEEN WRITTEN ABOUT YOU FOR CENTURIESAGES HAVE FILLED PARCHMENT PAGES COYOTESAVE PRAYED TO YOU DOWN THROUGH THE AGES IN SOME RUN DOWN FARM HOUSE, OLD LOVERS STILL KISS THEY JUST CAN'T HELP IT ON A NIGHT LIKE THIS. MY WHOLE UNIVERSEASKS IN YOUR LIGHT AS I SING THIS SWEET SONGO YOU TONIGHT! THRU MY BEDROOM WINDOW, I SEE YOU BRIGHT MOON. YOU BRIGHT MOON.

[APPLAUSE]

THANK YOU EVERYBODY.

THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH.

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