Coal Minin’ Man video from Urban Folk Quartet

Britain’s Urban Folk Quartet has spent the past 14 years refining their unique and eclectic sound, which draws equally from English, Celtic, and Appalachian resources. It’s not odd to also find traces of other European traditional music in their repertoire, with something of a contemporary, city influence – in the British sense of the word.

Their latest single, a remake of a Ricky Skaggs cut, Coal Minin’ Man, which had appeared shortly after Ricky’s return to bluegrass on his Ancient Tones album. Written by then banjo player Jim Mills, it tells of the hardscrabble life of a miner in the eastern mountain regions of the US, and his hopes to see better for his children.

UFQ retains the bluesy vibe of the original, but bring it uptown a bit, adding drums and reso-guitar to their basic ensemble of banjo, guitar, and fiddle. Banjo player Dan Walsh sings the lead, with support from bandmates Paloma Trigás on fiddle, Joe Broughton on guitar, and Tom Chapman on drums. Ben Broughton joins to add his reso-guitar on this one as well.

Speaking as a percussionist, Chapman explained how they modified the pulse of the song.

“Despite the song’s strong bluegrass/ country roots – which remain at the fore – funk and hip hop influences have informed its rhythmic drive.

Though not explicitly obvious, the main drum groove is borne out of jams based on the jazz influenced side of early-’00s hip hop, while the rhythms of the instrumental breaks are just straight up funk!”

Have a look/listen to Urban Folk Quartet with Coal Minin’ Man in this music video.

Coal Minin’ Man is available now from popular download and streaming services online. The song will also be included on the group’s next album, True Story, expected early in 2024, their first new effort since 2016.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.