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2023 Albums Thing 125 - Steve Earle & The Dukes “Ghosts Of West Virginia”

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On April 5, 2010, around 1,000 feet below ground, a coal dust explosion at the Upper Big Branch coal mine in Montcoal,  Raleigh County, West Virginia killed twenty-nine of the thirty-one miners who were working that day. It was the worst mining accident in the United States since 1970. A state investigation found in December 2011 that the mine owners were directly responsible for the Upper Big Branch mine disaster citing that flagrant safety violations contributed to the explosion. In 2012 the mines owners said it would be permanently closed.

“Ghosts Of West Virginia” is the soundtrack to the off-Broadway play “Coal Country” written about the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster. Steve Earle collaborated on the play written by Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen, drawing on interviews with survivors and families of the miners. In the song “It’s About Blood” Earle reads out the names of all 29 miners that died in the disaster.

That very angry song is followed on the album by the devastatingly beautiful “If I Could See Your Face Again”, sung from the point of view of a bereaved wife by Dukes Fiddle player Eleanor Whitmore. It’s one of Steve Earle’s very best songs and honestly makes me wanna cry every time I hear it.

“Ghosts Of West Virginia” met with almost universal critical acclaim. The whole album doesn’t last 30 minutes, it’s bloody wonderful.

If I Could See Your Face Again - https://youtu.be/CAEe2ngQCj8


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