Balsam Range Calls “Papertown” Home


If you’ve been listening to bluegrass radio lately, you’ve been hearing a lot of music from Balsam Range’s exceptional album, Papertown. To shoot the brand new video for the album’s title track, the band headed home to Canton, N.C.

“We wanted to tell the story of our little mountain town, the paper mill and, most importantly, the hardworking community that we are so proud to be a part of,” says Tim Surrett, who plays bass and resophonic guitar in the band. “Every town around us is a tourist spot, but Canton, N.C., is a mill town where the county folks come to work. It is a slice of all that is good in America, and that goodness is rooted in the spirit of the people.”

The song was written by Milan Miller as part of a historical project for Haywood County, N.C. Buddy Melton, who plays fiddle and sings on the track, worked on the project, too. He says focusing on the hard-working employees of the mill helps to tell the story of the region.

“To me, this song and story represents working America,” he said. “In a time when many jobs are leaving the country, it is nice to see small towns thriving with an industry that supports the community and a community that supports the industry.”

Casting the video proved easy, too. Asked about the friendly faces in the video, mandolin player Darren Nicholson replies, “They’re our neighbors, friends, family. People we run into at the store. They’re the backbone of our little mountain community. And not just working in the mill. They are Little League coaches, volunteers, sometimes our local politicians. People who make a difference.”

By the way, that’s Surrett’s grandmother in the video, fondly flipping through a scrapbook. “She just turned 90 in June and had the time of her life telling the stories of growing up in Canton,” he says. “Her father retired from the paper mill, as did her son. We actually shot footage in the old section of the mill where my great-grandfather worked. Many of our relatives work — or did work — in the mill.”

The band members say they feel a sense of pride watching the new video. “It really captures what we were going for in that it celebrates our pride in our small town and the community-oriented people of this area. I think, however, that people everywhere can identify with this feeling,” Surrett says.

“The song is about the resilience of working people. It is working people who move this country forward. It doesn’t matter where they are located. ‘Papertown’ could just have easily been called ‘Steeltown’ or ‘Cartown’ or whatever,” he adds. “It also speaks about the sense of belonging to a community which, sadly, is a sense that has dwindled in recent years. We just really wanted to honor the goodness of what is truly important: the decent, caring people and the history of our community.”

Nicholson adds, “I feel like they truly captured the message we were trying to convey. And I can’t wait to see the home folks’ reaction to it. Because we are proud of them.”

Enjoy the CMT Edge premiere of Balsam Range’s “Papertown.”