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Annie Bartholomew, 'Mountain Dove Song'

When the gold rush was on in the Yukon at the close of the 19th century, tens of thousands of prospectors flooded into Alaska and Canada to seek their fortunes. With them came women who sought a better life, but whose options were often limited to sex work; Juneau-based songwriter Annie Bartholomew tells their stories throughout her debut album Sisters of White Chapel.

"Mountain Dove Song" sketches a character who refuses to be silent about this, at turns, dark and largely untold chapter of the Last Frontier state. Bartholomew begins by playing a steady and airy clawhammer banjo melody, an instrument that she learned specifically for this project, and then adds mandolin, acoustic guitar and upright bass as she exposes the hypocrisy of her subject's clientele and the secrets she will not keep. In a soft, clear alto, she sings, "They think they can buy my silence / They think 'What can't money buy?' / If they tried to sell me back my virtue / I wouldn't waste a dollar thinking about the price." Ultimately, she reveals that her character would choose instead to spend that dollar on escape. [Editor's note: Annie Bartholomew was an intern for NPR Music almost a decade ago.]

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Joe Kendrick