Steve Earle & The Dukes – Ghosts of West Virginia

Steve Earle & The Dukes - Ghosts of West Virginia



4.4/5 Pros

  • Great story-telling album
  • High musical quality Cons

  • A bit too short

Steve Earle is definitely one of the big names in music in general. The country and folk artist had very decent chart placements in multiple countries so far. On 22nd May 2020, he released his 18th album, Ghosts of West Virginia.


Steve Earle – About The Artist

Steve Earle wa born in Fort Monroe, Virginia, on 17th January 1955. As his family returned back to their home in Earle’s early years, he in fact grew up in Texas. He started to learn the guitar at the age of 11 and dropped school at the age of 16 in order to move to Houston with his uncle. Three years later, he headed on to Nashville. As his initial appearances in the local country music scenes, he joined the Guy Clark Band, He also started writing songs. Earle went back to Texas and founded The Dukes there, but finally came back to Nashville in the mid 1980’s. In these years, he also released his first solo albums. The 1986 debut Guitar Town topped the US country charts. His two other 1980’s releases had very reasonable chart placements as well, but did not went to to the top. Also in the following decade, he grew his popularity in countries outside the US. For example, he had quite respectable album chart placements in New Zealand, Sweden or Switzerland. In the 2000’s and 2010’s, Earle made it big again in the US charts as well – therefore the international success was limited to a few other countries like Canada or the UK.


Ghosts of West Virginia – Track by Track

The ten track album lasts roughly 30 minutes.

1. Heaven Ain’t Goin‘ Nowhere

I would not even find the right words to describe the 1:39 minute intro song of the album in German – so how can I describe it in English? It sounds a bit like an old farmers poem or melancholic church song. Leads to sad mood somehow. Cannot really tell you if it is a song or a an intro… Not too bad, though

2. Union, God And Country

That’s why we listen to Steve Earle! Union, God And Country is a very classic country music tune, really lovely listen about traditional country live. Good intro.

3. Devil Put The Coal In The Ground

I just cannot help myself, put Devil Put The Coal In The Ground musically just that strongly reminds my of my Greek Dark Country friends, Redeye Caravan (see their album review here). The track feels very menacing, somehow – the longer it takes, the more the guitars dominate the repeating vocals as well. Still, a cool atmosphere.

4. John Henry Was A Steel Drivin‘ Man

John Henry is a legendary hero in West Virginia, who did heavy work in rail track works in West Virginia. His story is disputed – but US musicians love him – there is also a song about him by Bob Dylan, for example. Now there is a Steve Earle one. Cool country music, nice for a bar in the evening. Good song.

5. Time Is Never On Our Side

While Devil Put The Coal In The Ground reminded me of Greek Dark Country, this song could easily be a Bob Dylan one as well. Very clear and nice storytelling, using classic instrumentation. Steve Earle’s voice adds a lot of character to the song as well. Great!

6. It’s About Blood

It’s about fathers
It’s about sons
It’s about lovers wakin’ up
In the middle of the night, alone
It’s about muscle
It’s about bone
It’s about a river runnin’ thicker than water
And it’s about blood

This track is maybe the most impressive song of the album, as it reminds of the Upper Big Branch Cole Mine explosion on 5th April 2010, in Raleigh County, West Virginia, which took the life off 38 miners. Steve Earle reminds of all of them in his lyrics:

It’s about Carl Acord, Jason Atkins, Christopher Bell, Gregory Steven Brock, Kenneth Alan Chapman, Robert E. Clark, Charles Timothy Davis, Corey Davis, Michael Lee Elswick, William L. Griffith, Steven Harrah, Edward Dean Jones, Richard K. Lane, William Roosevelt Lynch, Nicholas Darryl McCroskey
Joe Marcum, Ronald Lee Maynor, James E. Mooney, Adam Keith Morgan, Rex L. Mullins, Joshua S. Napper, Howard D. Payne, Dillard Earl Persinger, Joel R. Price, Duke Scotten, Gary Quarles, Grover Dale Skeens, Benny Willingham, Ricky Workman
It’s about blood

Simply Impressive!

7. If I Could See Your Face Again feat. Eleanor Whitmore

Right after this impressive track, If I Could See Your Face Again which is sung by Eleanor Whitmore, gives some positive spirit back to the album. Very nice 2:57 minute distraction.

8. Black Lung

Mining and hard working men is of the key topic of this album, and the powerful track Black Lung continues with it. Quite a touch of country rock / Southern rock. Love to listen to it.

9. Fastest Man Alive

After some dark and depressive songs, Fastest Man Alive gives some light music back to Ghosts of West Virginia.

10. The Mine

In this tenth and final track, Steve Earle is singing with a dark voice, but overall, the song has a not a that dark mood than other tracks before. Nice finisher.


Ghosts of West Virginia – Spotify

Here is the Spotify widget for the Steve Earle & the Dukes album:


Ghosts of West Virginia – My View

First of all, I have to say that 29 minutes still feel a bit short for an album to me. But I feel to have to accept it. The US music industry is more and more moving towards these snippets of music. At least, the music and stories you listen to during this less-than-half-an-hour are an absolute masterpiece. Great stories related to West Virginia. Steve Earle’dark sound may feel a bit disturbing for some listeners, but he is just an excellent musician and and an excellent storyteller. Thus, this album just must be a Top Pick! Country Music Reviews

Here are reviews of all country music albums and EPs I reviewed earlier on the website: