Steve Earle & The Dukes have released the newest single “It’s About Blood” off their upcoming Ghosts of West Virginia album. The album is set to be released on May 22 and was inspired by the Upper Big Branch coal mine explosion in 2010 which killed 29 men.
Upper Big Branch in West Virginia had been the most deadly coal mine explosion in 40 years. A year later it came to light the mining company had covered up numerous safety violations which had ultimately led to the explosion.
“It’s About Blood” delivers a twangy tune with a heavy message. The fiddle remains subtly behind Earle’s rustic voice as he describes the contrast between the coal company and the men working, the country blues sound providing a hard working soundtrack. Earle ends the song by naming off each man who was killed in the coal mining accident.
He was approached for the concept of the album by playwrights Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen, who had written The Exonerated and were working on a production about the disaster. Coal Country opened to critical acclaim on March 3 but was postponed after two weeks due to coronavirus. The play had Earle on stage during production as he played his guitar and gave context of the play’s characters.
Earle received a nomination for the 65th Drama Desk Awards in the “Outstanding Music in a Play” category for his soundtrack. The Drama Desk Awards ceremony will take place virtually on May 31.
Earle produced the album at Electric Lady Studios in New York with Ray Kennedy as the engineer. The album was mixed in mono, however Earle is unable to discern the separation of the stereo design due to partial hearing loss in one of his ears.
Steve Earle & The Dukes have previously released a cover of “John Henry Was A Steel Drivin’ Man” and the album’s first single, “Devil Put Coal in the Ground.” Ghosts of West Virginia will feature 10 songs in total.