Folk Roots Radio Episode 514: feat. Steve Earle & More New Releases

Folk Roots Radio Episode 514: feat. Steve Earle & More New Releases

Steve Earle joins us on Episode 514 of Folk Roots Radio to chat about his critically-acclaimed 20th studio album, “Ghosts of West Virginia”, which tells the story of the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster which took place in West Virginia in 2010, and killed twenty-nine miners – making it one of the worst mining disasters in American history. It’s a great interview. We hope you’ll stick around to check it out. We also include more of the new music we’ve received, and this time around we hear from Evangeline Gentle, Norma MacDonald, Kieran Begbie, Adam Karch, Mike Scott, Julian Taylor, Scott Cook and David Clayton-Thomas. Check out the full playlist below.


Ghosts of West Virginia, the latest album from Steve Earle, takes as its main focus the explosion which occurred on April 5 2010, roughly 1,000 feet below ground in Raleigh County, West Virginia at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch coal mine located in Montcoal. Twenty-nine out of thirty-one miners under ground at the time were killed. Methane levels were allowed to build up to dangerous levels by poor ventilation, igniting coal dust, leading to the explosion. In the aftermath of the disaster, investigators discovered hundreds of safety violations, as well as attempts to cover them up. The mine’s owners agreed to pay more than $200 million in criminal liabilities, and shut the mine down. Former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship was also sentenced to one year in prison.

Seven songs on the new album were taken from the off-Broadway play Coal Country written by Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen. They approached Steve Earle to write songs for the show with Oskar Eustis the Artistic Director of The Public Theater in New York. The songs which are performed by Steve in the New York production, were drawn from interviews and testimonials with surviving miners and the families of those who died, while exploring the historical role of coal in rural communities and the union history of West Virginia’s mines. The new album also includes three more songs about West Virginia: “Black Lung”, “Fastest Man Alive” (about Chuck Yeager) and “The Mine”.

According to Steve Earle, Ghosts of West Virginia is the album he needed to make at this time. Although he has made political records in the past, those preached to the converted. This time around he wanted to reach out to those that don’t vote like he does, in an attempt to bridge the political divide in the United States, in advance of the election in November.

The guitars, dobros, banjos, and mandolins on the album are played by Chris Masterson, Ricky Ray Jackson, and Steve Earle, along with drums from Brad Pemberton and bass by the newest Duke, Chris Robinson Brotherhood’s Jeff Hill (due to the untimely passing of longtime beloved Earle side player Kelley Looney), with Eleanor Whitmore (who makes music with Chris Masterson as The Mastersons) on fiddle and vocals. Eleanor also takes the lead vocal on “If I Could See Your Face Again”.

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That’s all we have time for. Thanks to all the artists who share their music with us, and thank you for listening. We have a lot of great music and interviews to bring you on future episodes.

If you enjoy the music we play on this show and want to support the artists – many of whom aren’t able to play live at the moment because of the Covid-19 pandemic, don’t just stream their music – that earns them much less than a penny per play. Instead, buy their music – and really make a difference to their income. They’ll love you for it!

Image: Jacob Blickenstaff.


You can listen to this episode again on Soundcloud by following the link below. You can also listen to episodes of Folk Roots Radio, on demand, via Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and Tune-in Radio. (Click on the highlighted link to reach your chosen platform.)


Nicolas & The Iceni (Theme)
Lucy She Rises
Roll Right (2019, self)

Evangeline Gentle
You And I
(single) (2020, Sonic Unyon Records) CDN

Norma MacDonald
Trick Of The Light
Old Future (2020, Noyes Records) CDN

Kieran Begbie
(single) (2020, Self)

Adam Karch
It’s Your Song
Everything Can Change (2020, Disques Bros Records) CDN

Mike Scott
Watuaga Miner
(single) (2020, CMS Records)

Steve Earle & The Dukes
Heaven Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere
Ghosts Of West Virginia (2020, New West)

Steve Earle & The Dukes
Union God And Country
Ghosts Of West Virginia (2020, New West)

Interview: Steve Earle discussing his latest album “Ghosts Of West Virginia”.

Steve Earle & The Dukes
Time Is Never On Our Side
Ghosts Of West Virginia (2020, New West)

Steve Earle & The Dukes
It’s About Blood
Ghosts Of West Virginia (2020, New West)

Julian Taylor
Be With You
The Ridge (2020, Howling Turtle Inc.) CDN

Scott Cook
Leave A Light On
Tangle Of Souls (2020, Self) CDN

David Clayton-Thomas
Dear Mr. Obama
Say Somethin’ (2020, Antoinette Music Productions / Linus Entertainment) CDN

About the author


Host of Folk Roots Radio, Jan Hall started in Radio in 1993 at WEFT 90.1fm in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. Folk Roots Radio (formerly Royal City Rag) debuted on CFRU 93.3fm in August 2005 before developing into a syndicated radio show. As the host of Folk Roots Radio, Jan focuses on bringing new folk, roots and blues music and the voices of upcoming and independent artists to the airwaves. Jan is also a much sought after stage host and festival emcee. In 2019, Jan Hall received Folk Music Ontario's prestigious Estelle Klein Award for her contribution to Ontario's folk music community.

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