Steve Earle has made a career out of shaking things up.
On his twentieth studio record, Ghosts of West Virginia, he shows no sign of stopping now. Releasing later this month, and recorded with his backing band, The Dukes, Earle has crafted a ten track record that draws inspiration from the Upper Big Branch mine tragedy that took place in 2010 in Raleigh County, West Virginia. The explosion, a byproduct of a myriad of safety violations and willful negligence, killed twenty-nine miners. With these songs, which are also connected to Coal Country, a dramatic piece inspired by the same disaster, Earle dives deeply into the lives of Appalachian coal culture and uncovers the harsh reality of life, and death, bound to the coal industry.
This month also features the return of two our Trail Mix’s favorite North Carolina bands, American Aquarium and Chatham County Line.
With American Aquarium’s latest record, Lamentations, B.J. Barham has partnered with Shooter Jennings to produce some of his most powerful songcraft to date. “Me + Mine (Lamentations),” included on this month’s mix, focuses on the tragic demise of the rural and industrial South. A powerful video, released last month, puts to film the deterioration faced by so many communities like those in which I live, where the exodus of industry and jobs has compromised the promise of the American dream.
Chatham County Line’s latest release, Strange Fascination, continues the band’s sonic evolution. Featuring drums on every song, the band continues to experiment with its sound, progressing ever forward from its bluegrass roots of twenty years ago. Included on Trail Mix this month is the title track, which features Sharon van Etten on guest vocals.
And another highlight this month is the inclusion of a tune from Marshall Chapman, native songstress from Spartanburg, South Carolina. Chapman returns this month with Songs I Can’t Live Without, a collection of songs that, as the title implies, have been formative throughout Chapman’s life. Chapman includes tracks from the likes of J.J. Cale, Leonard Cohen, and Bob Seger, among others.
Be sure to check out the rest of this month’s mix, which features tunes from artists familiar and new to Trail Mix.
New friends like Jamie Wyatt, Holy Dive, Jake Blount, Caitlin Cannon, James Hyland, Jarrod Dickenson, Evan Mayall, Pezzettino, and Tessy Lou Williams, and Mark Olson (of The Jayhawks) and his new collaboration with Ingunn Ringvold, make their Trail Mix debuts, while this month welcomes the return of Trail Mix veterans like Pharis & Jason Romero, Sarah Shook & The Disarmers, Valley Queen, Brian Lisik, Thomm Jutz, Dead Winter Carpenters.
As these crazy times continue, music remains a source of inspiration. So many great artists offer up their craft as a comfort to all of us grasping at normal during this time of uncertainty. Seek out those artists that offer you strength. Disappear into these songs, one of the many concerts you can now find streaming online, or that great album that grabs you in the gut. Support these artists by buying a record. I have made that request at the end of every Trail Mix post for ten years, but the request has never been more pressing than it is right now.