Jim James, who lives in Louisville, Kentucky, has heard all about mountaintop removal — extracting coal by blowing off the tops of mountains in Appalachian country. But he knows the rest of the country isn't very familiar with this controversial procedure — hence the Appalachian Voices tour (July 22nd through July 30th), on which the My Morning Jacket frontman and two other Southern talents, singer-songwriter Daniel Martin Moore and cellist Ben Sollee, will raise awareness of eco-unfriendly MTR.
"People's lives are being drastically ruined," James says. "They put all the rubble down into the valleys and rivers so they don't have to dig mines. It affects wildlife and plants. People are turning on their water and having sludge come out of the faucet. It's horrible. Most people aren't ever going to hear about it because the people being affected don’t have any voice or money to get the word out. So the artists in the areas are just trying to lend a hand and be their voices."
The three will talk about MTR while playing unplugged versions of My Morning Jacket tunes and songs from their 2009 Dear Companion charity album. "It's similar to what we did on the Monsters of Folk tour," James says. "We’ll be learning each other's songs and playing them together. It's going to be pretty folky."
James isn't the only rocker raising consciousness — and money — on the road this summer. Here's how Phish, Rob Thomas and Carole King and James Taylor are putting the spotlight on serious causes:
My Morning Jacket: $1 from each ticket from their August tour with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band goes to women's shelters, tutoring programs for homeless children and anti-poverty groups, among others. "People are waking up to the fact that we're all inter-connected and what hurts one of us hurts us all," says Jim James. "A lot of people will write that stuff off as hippie-dippie bullshit, but it really is true."
Phish: 50 cents from each ticket on their summer tour benefits the Waterwheel Foundation, founded by the band in 1997 to benefit worthy causes (food drives, teen shelters, medical volunteers).
Rob Thomas: Proceeds from Thomas' summer tour — in which he'll play songs from his solo albums and Matchbox twenty in an intimate trio setting — will benefit the Sidewalk Angels Foundation, a non-profit group founded by Thomas and his wife Marisol; the money goes toward pet sanctuaries and aiding homeless families.
Carole King and James Taylor: Profits from VIP tickets — which sell for between $800 and $1200 — will go to the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, two environmental groups. "We work with Tickets for Charity — they scalp tickets for good causes, basically," chuckles Taylor. "It allows Carole and I to kick in for it."