Songs About Coalmining

I recently discovered Diana Jones and it is absolutely criminal that she is not a better known singer/songwriter. This song is “Henry Russell’s Last Words” about a man who emigrated to The States, and sent loveletters to his wife which survive. This song is about his last letter to her, written on a piece of sacking as he died in a mine.  “Meet me in heaven, I’ll wait for you there. ” I’m sure he did.

Following on from this, the classic song by the BeeGees, The 1941 Mining Disaster which never happened. This version is recorded in 1971 in Melbourne’s Festival Hall, a very large tin shed which was the city’s main venue for too long. So it sort of fits the subject.

One of my favourite albums of recent years is Levon Helm’s ‘The Dirt Farmer’ which has a version of Steve Earle’s song ‘The Mountain’, about living on a mountain full of coal and the lives of people there.  This is about the dangers, but also the whole life and community  of mining, both the living and the dead.   This is Steve Earle with Levon Helm’s band live in 2010, two of the best.

And  a classic song that says it all: Loretta Lynn, singing about her own life,  ‘The Coalminer’s Daughter’ which  inspired the film of the same name starring Sissy Spacek.

And finally, the wonderful Unthanks, ‘The Testimony of Patience Kershaw’, about evidence given by a young girl at an inquiry about working conditions of children in North England’s mines in the 19th century.

I have just discovered this latest song, by Alan Price, ‘The Trimdon Grange Explosion’ about a real disaster in the late 19th century in Price’s area of the North of England.  I think it is great, straddling pop music and traditional ballads with some serious orchestrations.

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