“Within A Mile From Home”…#SoundtrackSunday

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I grew up in the Mountains of West Virginia. My hometown was just a blip on the map but it was warm and comfortable. I was raised in the arms of Mother Nature and the songs of my summers were rooted in my Irish heritage. In those days, I yearned for change. Instead of appreciation, I stared, in spite, at the steady streams and felt smothered by the hills. My hometown was so small and I felt so big. I, somehow, wanted to be more than the place I came from.

So, I traveled. With every new beginning, I became something more than myself but I never became something new. Instead, I found myself clinging more tightly to my everything I had run from. I searched for the faces of my hometown in the moon, stars and above. I listened for the sweet sounds of my grandmother singing; her Irish voice ringing clear in the wind.

The further I am from my beginnings, the harder I search for them. Eventually, it has become a reminder of everything I have lost…and gained. No matter where I go in life, or how many new beginnings I may have, I am always “Within A Mile of Home.”

The grittiness of my Irish Heritage, the soft blow of the mountain wind, and the rhythm of my Uncle’s guitar…these are all things that are so ingrained within my soul that they can never be removed. Yet, I have removed myself from them. In doing this, I have become a hybrid of the world. The rhythms of all the places I have been and every person I have loved adds to the foundation that was built during my childhood. I replace my bluegrass roots with the punk rock of my rebellious spirit. It’s the same rhythm but at a different pitch. I am the same soul but with a ¬†different song. I’m “Within a Mile From Home” but still so far from it.

Flogging Molly is a perfect example of this…they are so traditionally Irish with a punk rock twist. It is impossible to limit their music to just one genre. Like me, they are hybrids of the world. Still, they remain true to their roots. I love this band, and this song because it reminds me that in all my twists and turns in life, that I am never far from being the person I was at the beginning…it reminds me to stay true to myself and never turn my back on the place from which I came….

“Don’t turn your back on me, don’t ever let me down.”¬†

I hope this is a promise that I always keep.

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The Village that Raised Colton Pack, #RestlessRoad, #ColtonPack

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They say it takes a village to raise a child. Tonight on XFactor, we got a sneak peak at the villages that raised the finalists in this years contest. It was bittersweet for me, and many others, because the group I was rooting for never got the chance to show off their villages…never got the welcome home parties, and never got the chance to compete for the title.

I know it sounds trite but for me, rooting for Restless Road is personal. If you remember from the auditions, Colton Pack brought his hometown with him to the audition. The XFactor producers even showed footage from his hometown, which included showing off the town’s stop sign, post office, and grocery store. This town is called Danese, WV and it is nestled securely between nowhere and nowhere.

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It may just be a blip on West Virginia’s map but for me, it is everywhere…it’s where I grew up. My first job was at that small grocery store and my mom worked with the post office every year to host the local angel tree kids event. Now, I live just outside of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Although my beloved hometown is nearly 1,000 miles away from me, watching it being represented by Colton Pack in Restless Road on X Factor made me feel at home.

The first thing you need to understand about Danese is that the people who live there are very kind…and very close knit. I can give you a million examples of outpouring love that I experienced while I lived there. If someone saw you stuck in the snow, they would shovel you out…if you were down on your luck around Christmas time, the community would extend what they could to help Santa visit your children…if you ran out of gas…well, you get the point.

If Colton Pack seems kind and humble on TV, it’s because he is and because he was raised by a value system which helps him be that way. He comes from a fine family. One of his grandfathers was my elementary school principle and the other sang in my church (I guess the talent runs in the family). Then again, Danese is full of fine people and fine families.

The volunteer fire department is full of fine people who risk their lives to keep the town safe (in the absence of a police station). The town boasts several war heroes, such as my brother, who have risked their lives for our country’s freedom. Not to mention the countless citizens who work together, year after year, to survive the mountainous winters that rage there. My point in saying this is because I know that Colton Pack will use his platform of fame to represent the town in all these aspects and the thought of it excites me.

Danese might be a town so small that it is void of a stop light but it is a nurturing environment which raises its youth to be caring individuals. It is also one of the nation’s best kept secrets. The town itself has no major landmarks and no claim to fame (until now) but just a few minutes outside the town are a few hidden treasures. Not far from the small town stands the New River Gorge Bridge, a bridge that was the longest steel arch bridge in the nation for the longest time. Now, it’s just the one with the most beautiful view. Here is a view of the bridge in the Fall.

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The town around that bridge hosts some of the best white water rapids in West Virginia and is a huge tourist town. It’s also very beautiful. If you start at Danese and drive about an hour, through Historical Lewisburg and to White Sulfur Springs, you will find The Greenbrier. It is the state’s most prominent resort and until the late 90’s, it hosted a secret bunker for the White House. Now all that seems kind of far away from the actual town but it all has a great impact on Danese. When you live in a small town, an hour drive to any town is pretty standard.

If you get a little closer to Danese, you will run into Hawks Nest State Park and The Mystery Hole. However, probably the most well known landmark close to Danese is Babcock State Park. It is actually quite well known, although nobody ever seems to know where it is. Have you ever seen a picture of this grist mill?

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I remember the first time that I saw a painting of it outside of West Virginia. I was in the Mall of Louisiana and I probably made a fool of myself with my excitement as I told the vendor selling it that it is a picture from Babcock State Park, 5 minutes away from where I grew up. He was really nice about it and we talked for a moment about how beautiful it was.

It is beautiful…but then again, I might be a sentimental fool. Perhaps everyone feels the way I do about their hometown. Still, if your hometown is just a blip on the map, you will understand why I was so excited for it to receive some recognition, at last. Aside from that, you cant deny that Restless Road makes really good music. You can’t deny that all three guys are genuinely charming and deserving of the recognition they are receiving.

Towns like Danese run deep in the blood of the people who grow up there. I know that first hand. So, if you’re wondering why country runs so deep in Colton Pack, you need to look no further than the village which raised him. It is small in size but grand in character, just like Pack, himself.