Steve Earle & The Dukes Announce New Album ‘Ghosts Of West Virginia’ & Share Single
Steve Earle and The Dukes announced a new album, Ghosts Of West Virginia, due out on May 22 via New West Records. The legendary singer-songwriter also shared the single, “Devil Put the Coal in the Ground.”
Steve Earle and The Dukes’ — now consisting of guitarist Chris Masterson, vocalist and fiddler Eleanor Whitmore, pedal steel and dobro ace Ricky Ray Jackson, drummer Brad Pemberton and bassist Jeff Hill — Ghosts Of West Virginia, recorded at Jimi Hendrix’s famed Electric Lady studios in New York, traces the tragic tale of the Upper Big Branch coal mine explosion which killed 29 men a decade ago. It was one of the worst mining accidents in American history and sadly it could have been avoided if not for safety violations. Making things worse was the attempted cover-up of those violations.
The saga serves as the backdrop for Ghosts Of West Virginia and the play Coal Country, both of which Earle began writing the music for after being approached by playwrights Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen. But Earle also injected his own thoughts into the project.
“I thought that, given the way things are now, it was maybe my responsibility to make a record that spoke to and for people who didn’t vote the way that I did,” Earle said in a statement. “One of the dangers that we’re in is if people like me keep thinking that everyone who voted for Trump is a racist or an asshole, then we’re fucked, because it’s simply not true. So this is one move toward something that might take a generation to change. I wanted to do something where that dialogue could begin.”
Earle added, “I said I wanted to speak to people that didn’t necessarily vote the way that I did, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have anything in common. We need to learn how to communicate with each other. My involvement in this project is my little contribution to that effort. And the way to do that — and to do it impeccably — is simply to honor those guys who died at Upper Big Branch.”
The album is also dedicated to longtime Dukes bass player Kelley Looney, who passed away around the time recording began. Former Chris Robinson Brotherhood bassist Jeff Hill “stepped into the breach” as Earle put it.
The album is previewed with the single “Devil Put the Coal in the Ground.” Premiered by Rolling Stone Country, here’s what the publication had to say about the song:
“In ‘Devil Put the Coal in the Ground,’ Earle employs a heave-ho work-song rhythm to conjure the pride of working men as they descend into the mines. With a bluesy, hypnotic musical backdrop, droning fiddle, and pounding percussion, Earle drawls his lyrics in a way that almost sounds like a taunt: ‘The good lord gimme two hands/Says is you an animal or is you a man.’ It transforms into a psychedelic guitar odyssey, thrilling and anxiety-ridden all at once.”
Stream “Devil Put the Coal in the Ground” below:
The Ghosts Of West Virginia Tracklist:
- Heaven Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere
- Union, God and Country
- Devil Put The Coal In The Ground
- John Henry Was A Steel Drivin’ Man
- Time Is Never On Our Side
- It’s About Blood
- If I Could See Your Face Again (featuring Eleanor Whitmore)
- Black Lung
- Fastest Man Alive
- The Mine