Canadians seemingly enjoy songs about tragedy and historical disasters. Gordon Lightfoot’s “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” is that country’s hallmark for such ballads. Thirty-six years later, enter The Coal Creek Boys and their recounting of the underground explosion in the No. 2 mine at the Coal Creek Colliery in British Columbia. Occurring on 22 May 1902, this incident, which claimed 128 lives, predates the subject of Gord’s tragedy by 73 years.
In the Early Summer evening of nigh teen hundred and two,
The Mine was thick as mud, Dust black and Blue.
We picked away at the Coal face, my Pa and me,
The Afterdamp had grown so bad, the explosion we’d never see.
The Coal Creek Boys pay homage to the heritage of Elk Valley, British Columbia, through their band’s name. That same dirt-under-the-nails, work-till-you-drop attitude is evident on their 2012 release, Hard At It in Old Town.
It’s hard to escape the ghosts that linger from this tragedy more than a century later. Nor do The Coal Creek Boys attempt to do so. In fact, they revel in such tales.
And it’s hey hey hey
The Ghost is finally home
And its hey hey hey
Pick up that rum and drink
Cause the one that you love
Is here and not there
The one that you love
Is a ghost my dear
The hard-scrabble mining tradition of Elk Valley is still alive today, providing a deep vein of history, stories and truths that inform and affect the songs on Hard At It in Old Town. Mixing rock and roll, country and Irish accordion for good measure, this is clearly music for working men, their wives and the children coming of age in such a locale.
And Oh, I’m begging you please,
Don’t let me go to work down there.
Oh I’m begging you please, ,
Don’t let me go to work down there
Cause I’m on the road,
With the radio blasting,
Cause all I am is rock and roll
From “May 22, 1902” which recounts the aforementioned tragedy to the rebel’s tale of “Old Number 7,” the narratives that span this album lay it all on the line. Life, love and loss are all covered on Hard At It in Old Town. No matter if gleaned from documented history, ghost tales passed down through generations or personal experience, each song rings true.
Stream seven songs from Hard At It in Old Town below.
The band is set to release their new album, Rose Town, this May.