Singled Out: Rob Williams' Butte, Montana 1885

11-15-2017
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Rob Williams

Roots rocker Rob Williams just released his third album "An Hour Before Daylight" and to celebrate we asked him to to tell us about the song "Butte, Montana 1885." Here is the story:

Prior to journeyman singer/songwriter, my first career was a history educator -- first as a high school teacher and then as a curriculum specialist. In those roles, I became aware that the Library of Congress had digitized a vast collection of American newspapers from the 19th century, and I spent a fair amount of time browsing the collection searching for primary source material that I might use with students. During one of those searches, I came upon an article in The Butte Daily Minerfrom January 1, 1886. The intent of the article was to demonstrate how safe a frontier mining town Butte was, and to prove it, the article detailed all of the coroner's inquiries from the previous year. It was literally a list of all of the suspicious deaths, mining accidents, suicides, and homicides from 1885. I thought it was brilliant to show how safe a place was by describing how tragically people there had died! I grabbed a pen and started putting the song together, and to tell the truth, I didn't have to take too many liberties with the content of the article. The song pretty much just jumped out of the newspaper and into my notebook. Fat Jack really did drink himself to death, and Opium Jim actually met his maker at the hands of other men. Sometimes songwriting is easy. Not often, but sometimes.

Hearing is believing. Now that you know the story behind the song, listen for yourself and learn more about the album right here!

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