Steve Earle has announced that his new album with The Dukes, Ghosts Of West Virginia, will be released by New West on May 22.
Hear the lead single, “Devil Put The Coal In The Ground” below:
Ghosts Of West Virginia centres on the Upper Big Branch coal mine explosion that killed 29 men in that state in 2010. Earle started working on the album after becoming involved in Coal Country, a theatre piece about disaster. Earle functions as “a Greek chorus with a guitar,” in his words. He is on stage for the entire play and performs seven of the songs that make up Ghosts Of West Virginia. Coal Country officially opens on March 3 at The Public Theater in New York City – tickets and more information here.
“I’ve already made the preaching-to-the-choir album,” says Earle. “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. 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…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 was produced by Steve Earle and engineered by Ray Kennedy at Electric Lady Studios in New York City. It was mixed entirely in mono, primarily because Earle has experienced partial hearing loss in his right ear and can no longer discern the separation that stereo is designed to produce. It features his latest incarnation of his backing band The Dukes: Chris Masterson on guitar, Eleanor Whitmore on fiddle & vocals, Ricky Ray Jackson on pedal steel, guitar & dobro, Brad Pemberton on drums & percussion, and Jeff Hill on acoustic & electric bass.
As well as the victims of Upper Big Branch, Ghosts Of West Virginia is dedicated to the memory of long-time Steve Earle bassist Kelley Looney, who passed away shortly before the recording of the album.