Steve Earle & the Dukes are set to release a powerful new record called Ghosts of West Virginia, out on May 22, that centers around the 2010 Upper Big Branch coal mine explosion. That tragedy killed 29 miners and is now known as one of the worst mining disasters in American history.

The outspoken singer-songwriter was approached by playwrights Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen, who were in the process of creating the play Coal Country about the Upper Big Branch explosion. Earle penned this collection of songs for the play and performs seven of the tracks on stage during the show, which opens on March 3 at the Public Theater in New York City.

Earle's songs give context to the tragedy, which stemmed from various safety violations that were later found to have been covered up by the mine's owners.

“I thought that, given the way things are now, it was maybe my responsibility to make a record that spoke to and for people who didn’t vote the way that I did,” Earle said in a statement. "This is one move toward something that might take a generation to change. I wanted to do something where that dialogue could begin.”

He adds, “We need to learn how to communicate with each other. My involvement in this project is my little contribution to that effort. And the way to do that — and to do it impeccably —is simply to honor those guys who died at Upper Big Branch.”

Earle recorded Ghosts of West Virginia at Jimi Hendrix’s legendary Electric Lady Studios in New York City. The project was recorded completely in mono, due to hearing partial hearing loss that has made Earle unable to hear the qualities of stereo recordings. Bassist Jeff Hill joined the Dukes for this record, stepping in for the late Kelley Looney, who played bass for Earle for 30 years. The album is dedicated to Looney along with the 29 miners who died in the explosion.

Tickets for Coal Country are on sale now, with shows scheduled through March 29. Steve Earle & the Dukes have live dates across the country set through September with more expected to be announced in the coming weeks.

Steve Earle & the Dukes, Ghosts of West Virginia Track Listing: 

1. "Heaven Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere"
2. "Union, God and Country"
3. "Devil Put the Coal in the Ground"
4. "John Henry Was a Steel Drivin’ Man"
5. "Time Is Never on Our Side"
6. "It’s About Blood"
7. "If I Could See Your Face Again" (featuring Eleanor Whitmore)
8. "Black Lung"
9. "Fastest Man Alive"
10. "The Mine"

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