Contemplating the treacherous political landscape of West Virginia, Steve Earle decided to build a bridge.
The singer-songwriter known for his liberal views undertook a project that would speak for the other side on the issue of coal mining. Earle’s empathetic attempt to address the divide has resulted in one of his best albums: “Ghosts of West Virginia.”
The set draws material from the 2010 Upper Big Branch mine explosion that killed 29 men. Earle wrote folk songs for a play about the disaster, and has used them as the foundation of a concept album that considers coal’s role in the life of West Virginians from their perspective.
Earle’s grunting, gravelly tenor is perfectly cast as he assesses the state’s mythology and geology. On the song “It’s About Blood,” a fanfare for the common man, Earle lists the victims of the 2010 tragedy, his voice more anguished with each name recited.
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