Songwriter Dennis Duff hails from a part of western Kentucky known as the Land Between the Lakes. It includes Lyon and Trigg counties, and parts of Stewart County in Tennessee, which were emptied of people in the 1960s by the Tennessee Valley Authority. Duff’s family had lived in the region since the 1880s before TVA uprooted families, farms, and businesses that had existed for generations, and were among the more than 5,000 residents forced to sell and evacuate their holdings so that the land could be returned to wetlands and forests.
Under the guise of removing all signs of human habitation, the government insisted that even cemeteries needed to be removed in the process, a most unpleasant prospect to families who had lived there for some time.
The stories of the people dislocated by this action are not well known outside of the area, but Dennis is determined to tell them on his new album, Songs From Lyon County. He’s written a full project’s worth of these tales, due for release on September 7, in the form of a songwriter record with a number of prominent vocalists sharing their talents. The first single we highlighted back in June was called When I Leave Kentucky, sung as a duet by Bradley Walker and Holly Pitney. It was something of a somber song, with the singers asserting that they would never leave the state until they had left this life.
Now a second is available, Hey Mr. TVA, which takes a very different tack. Dennis sings this one himself, and its lyrics accuse the TVA of disrupting and destroying the lives of the people living Between the Lakes. You hear an announcer condemn himself to hell, not for living a dissolute life, but for participating in this debacle for the sake of the TVA.
Here is a video for the song, which uses a series of stark, B&W photos from prior to the damming of the rivers to capture the loss.