Steve Earle & The Dukes Release ‘Ghosts Of West Virginia’
Steve Earle and The Dukes released their highly-anticipated new album, Ghosts Of West Virginia, today on New West Records. The album traces the tragic true story of the Upper Big Branch coal mine explosion that killed 29 men in 2010.
The Upper Big Branch explosion proved one of the worst mining disasters in U.S. history. Making the disaster all the more tragic, investigations later revealed that the explosion stemmed from safety violations that were subsequently covered up.
The project began when playwrights Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen approached Earle about writing the music for their production, Coal Country, based on the Upper Big Branch disaster. Seven of the album’s 10 tracks appear in the musical and were performed by Earle himself. The production opened on March 3 at New York City’s Public Theater but was postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.
To record Ghosts Of West Virginia, Earle enlisted his trusty band The Dukes who also experienced their own personal tragedy when longtime bass player Kelley Looney died just before going into the studio. Former Chris Robinson Brotherhood bassist Jeff Hill would step “into the breach” as Earle put it to round out the personnel that also included Chris Masterson on guitar; Eleanor Whitmore on fiddle and vocals, Ricky Ray Jackson on pedal steel, guitar and dobro; and Brad Pemberton on drums and percussion.
Earle produced the record himself with the help of engineer Ray Kennedy at Jimi Hendrix’s famed Electric Lady Studios in New York City. The result is a set of songs firmly in the legendary singer-songwriter’s wheelhouse championing everyday people including “John Henry Was A Steel Drivin’ Man,” “Devil Put The Coal In The Ground” and the powerful “It’s About Blood” where Earle immortalizes the names of the men lost at Upper Big Branch.
Stream Steve Earle and The Dukes’ Ghosts Of West Virginia below: