Logan Halstead to Release Debut Album “Dark Black Coal”
The sons and daughters of Appalachia are sometimes born into lives of despair and destitution due to the economic malaise of the region brought on by the implosion of the coal industry and other economic and social calamities. One of the few glimmers of hope for the region has been the rise of authentic songwriters singing about their experiences, and taking those experiences to the very top of country charts, creating heroes of local stock, and inspiring hopes and dreams of similar stardom in the upcoming generation as a way out and up.
Logan Halstad is one of those hopefuls. Born in Kentucky and raised in West Virginia, at just 19 years old he’s getting ready to release his debut album Dark Black Coal on May 5th via Thirty Tigers. Just over two years ago Logan was featured in a now viral video singing his song “Dark Black Coal” for Radio West Virginia (see below), and the comparisons to Tyler Childers started pouring in.
Along with Tyler Childers, others such as Sturgill Simpson, Chris Stapleton, Charles Wesley Godwin, Sierra Ferrell, and so many more from the region that have risen meteorically in country music recently. Logan also specifically names Nicholas Jamerson and Cole Chaney as inspirations. “All these folks mentioned have laid a path and shown that it’s okay to be from these parts; we’re not so looked down on anymore,” Logan says.
Halstead has already proven himself to be wise beyond his age, and has been welcomed into the cadre of songwriters from coal country and beyond, including Arlo McKinley who featured Logan on the song “Back Home” last year. The question about Halstead is the same one for so many of the songwriting hopefuls pouring out of the region: Do they have the originality to grow out of the shadows of folks like Tyler Childers? Meanwhile, songs about coal are starting to become so prevalent, some may say they’re becoming their own cliché.
Halstead will put his writing stills to the test with nine original songs on the new album, along with covering his close friend Cole Chaney’s “The Flood,” which was one of the standouts from Chaney’s 2021 album Mercy. Richard Thompson’s “1952 Vincent Black Lightning” also makes it onto Dark Black Coal.
The album was produced by Lawrence Rothman at The Sound Emporium, and utilized artists such as Kristin Weber on fiddle, the legendary Dennis Crouch on bass, and Ethan Ballinger on mandolin. Logan Halstead played much of the guitar on the album himself. Ahead of the new album, Halstead has released the studio version of the viral song “Dark Black Coal.”
The album is now available for presale/preorder.
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Dark Black Coal Track List:
1. Good ol’ Boys with Bad Names (Logan Halstead)
2. The Flood (Cole Chaney)
3. Man’s Gotta Eat (Logan Halstead)
4. Dark Black Coal (Logan Halstead)
5. Mountain Queen (Logan Halstead)
6. Kentucky Sky (Logan Halstead)
7. Coal River (Logan Halstead)
8. Far From Here (Logan Halstead)
9. 1952 Vincent Black Lightning (Richard Thompson)
10. Uneven Ground (Logan Halstead)
11. Bluefoot (Logan Halstead)
March 8, 2023 @ 8:50 am
I always wish these fellows well, and I’ll always wonder where the hook is.
March 8, 2023 @ 5:50 pm
The hook for me is in the witness and the wit. The truth, told with some art.
March 8, 2023 @ 9:06 am
Agree with Conrad. Song structure matters! No chorus, no hook. Just verse, verse, verse, verse. It’s an old primitive folk style. Dylan used to do it frequently, nearly every Zach Bryan song is this way as well. And certainly Childers does it from time to time. Why is this ” style” all the rage right now?
There have been some great coal songs over the history of Country music. Sixteen Tons, You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive, Big Bad John, and Coal Miners Daughter come to mind. So it’s a good subject to write about, but as Trig notes, there is the risk of cliche with it.
March 12, 2023 @ 9:00 am
Songs lacking a chorus are written in a form known as “strophic” and it is probably as old as music itself. Although “Dark Black Coal” actually has a chorus.
Not every song needs a chorus.
March 8, 2023 @ 9:27 am
The very first time I heard Tyler Childers and Zach Bryan I knew they’d be phenoms in the genre. I’m even more confident (and thrilled) about Logan Halstead’s prospects. The regional buzz about this kid is defending and I’m all in on his journey.
March 8, 2023 @ 10:35 am
I was early detractors of both, and I still have the same criticisms of their music, but as long as the boys are eating big time, I’ll be the last to judge.
That said, “oops” by Yung Gravy has 17 million hits on Youtube. Just because it’s popular doesn’t mean it’ll stand time’s test. It doesn’t even mean it’s good.
March 8, 2023 @ 11:03 am
There’s nothing wrong with constructive criticism, opinions, and open discussions about music (that’s why we are all here). And taste in music is subjective and regional (and forever evolving).
Popular music is the compromise, the rounded edges, the vanilla that safely appeals to the masses. Some really bad popular music has surprisinlgly stood the test of time. I remember as a kid crying over the popularity of “Achy Breaky Heart.” I couldn’t justify its appeal. My stepmother issued me it was a fad. It went on to garner a Grammy Nomination and still popular today.
With that said, I think Halstead will see the most success regionally (like Childers in Appalachia and the Turnpike Troubadours in the Red Dirt region) with a few pockets of outliers.
March 9, 2023 @ 7:17 am
I agree with Hoptown. Regional differences are interesting. Those of us raised in mountain music don’t need hooks and structure and polish and hot licks as much. I reckon maybe we all form our individual platonic ideal of country music fairly early on, and consciously or unconsciously measure new stuff against that. For a Westerner, that might be Merle Haggard on a big stage, with a crackerjack band. For me, it’s some old boy named Sonny Houston singing in a woodshop with his guitar. Who’s to say. Excited for this record though.
March 8, 2023 @ 12:52 pm
It’s hard to take someone seriously that can’t see the draw, or recognize the talent of someone like Tyler Childers. I’m not a fan of Chris Stapleton, but it’s easy to see the draw and talent.
March 8, 2023 @ 12:56 pm
I like a couple of his songs and I think he writes some good lyrics. I loved Triune God. Catchy. He’s got great pieces of lyrics but he’s nowhere near as disciplined as a guy like Bob McDill or Dallas Frazier or Roger Cook. I want a memorable melody man, something I can hang my hat on.
And yeah, you’re wise not to take me too seriously lol.
March 8, 2023 @ 2:01 pm
Purgatory is chock full of memorable melodies. Absolute earworms. I think that’s one of his greatest strengths as a songwriter.
March 8, 2023 @ 11:12 am
A few months ago the annual FFA convention was in town and I happened to be walking through a lobby area where a kid wearing his corduroy jacket was playing a guitar and singing Shake the Frost for a group of 30 or so. I stopped dead in my tracks. This 15 or 16 year old kid was singing like his life depended on it a song that probably 29 of those people had never heard and he had them hanging on every word. It gave me hope for the future.
March 8, 2023 @ 11:42 am
Love Cole Chaney.
March 8, 2023 @ 2:22 pm
Been following this kid since his videos first went viral and I’m pretty excited for the album. That being said, I agree with Conrad with wishing these young guys would evolve out of the endless verse structure and start writing really memorable melodies and catchy choruses. What drew to country music was the across the board high level of skill — singing, song writing, instrumentation. I don’t need a lack of polish to buy their authenticity, just make great country music.
March 8, 2023 @ 2:26 pm
Coal songs might be a cliche, but it’s at least a sincere one. It’s about impossible to tell the story of most Cumberland Plateau towns or families without mentioning the stranglehold the coal company had on the people financially, socially, and culturally. I read a fair amount about Appalachian history and labor movements and a lot of folks who lived through the transition from an agrarian to a coal centered Appalachia emphasizes how it changed literally everything about their lives, often for the worse. Even today, every other person over 50 has black lung in a lot of small towns in eastern KY, and every other person under 50 is without a proper job and has substance abuse problems. These cliches are at least truer to rural life in Appalachia than city boys singing about girls and beer in pickup trucks real country folks can’t afford. I’ll take offense when it’s the Nashville city boys singing about coal to catch a trend.
I like Logan’s music a lot. I think he’s writing pretty well for a kid who’s still in his early twenties.
March 8, 2023 @ 5:23 pm
March 8, 2023 @ 5:48 pm
I appreciate this music, but “evil ways” is young man’s language. A comment from a miner who worked 45 years in the mines, in a comment on Halstead’s (well-recorded) video, is the voice of many miners. Mining is not evil. Truth is darker than any slogan. Halstead is a writer to watch, and he proves that Childers is definitely a spring of clear water for talented mountain people.
March 8, 2023 @ 8:18 pm
My musical love has always been for the lyrics and the songwriters. I’ve always been amazed by people who thought the singer wrote the song. Sometimes they did, but most times not. The words mean the most to me and I’m glad Halstad has the chops to write from his heart. As always, thanks Trigger for opening our ears to new talent. I’ve been an album “liner/credits” reader for years. It’s never failed to enrich my knowledge or appreciation.
March 8, 2023 @ 8:24 pm
Oops, sorry Halstead on the misspelling of your name.
Luke Bryan Burner
March 8, 2023 @ 10:30 pm
I’ll second (or third or fourth) some of the statements people are making in here. I’m a fan of all of those artists Logan lists as inspiration. I wish the kid well but I just dont get it. People have been going crazy over him since Dark Black Coal came out and it makes no sense to me. Nothing original, nothing catchy, lyrics aren’t even that good. We’ll see what happens from here but at some point some of these guys need to be told they’re not as good as they think. Also, this is just personal opinion, but there’s no reason to cover a song that’s not even 2 years old if you’re not a great singer. Cole Chaney is good, leave his stuff alone.
March 9, 2023 @ 5:04 am
They want a new Tyler Childers since he got sober and became a sell out.
March 9, 2023 @ 9:22 am
Really don’t see how Childers can be a sell out when “Can I take my hounds to heaven” wasn’t even very successful commercially… Making an average album and adding weird electronic stuff on the third disc doesn’t mean you’re selling out.
The last two albums didn’t go #1 in country, they didn’t get radio play, they didn’t win awards, so I don’t see the “selling out” …
March 9, 2023 @ 11:04 am
Tyler just went back to being the artist he was before Purgatory. In the end, he’s more Bottles and Bibles than Purgatory. Purgatory was the ruse. I questioned as much in the comments when Trig reviewed Purgatory in August 2017 – which is the real Childers? It was the former, not the later. Go back and watch youtube videos of Childers performing prior to Purgatory.
So when I see comments about Childers sobriety or “selling out,” I know they are being made by a person who has no knowledge about Childers pre-Purgatory.
March 9, 2023 @ 11:09 am
Chaney and Halstead have been playing/touring a lot together over the last year +. I think Halstead is just paying tribute to his friend by recording “The Flood.” Waylon and Willie did this all through the 70’s and 80’s recording each others previously released music in shorter windows than 2 years.
March 9, 2023 @ 6:37 am
Seems I have been hearing about Logan for years, so it’s kinds crazy he is still only 19. Also funny he has so many fans and critics despite only releasing a few songs. I’m interested to find out what a full band album will turn out to be for him. At only 19 his whole career is ahead of him still.
March 9, 2023 @ 8:29 am
As soon as an independent artist gets anything even closely resembling “success,” they get downgraded, denigrated, and eventually, ripped apart by independent fans who are ingrained to believe anything that’s popular and successful must be bad. Saw this with Chris Stapleton, Zach Bryan, Sturgill, all of them. As I said in the article, I want to hear more from this young man than coal songs. But I’m looking forward to the album and agree to judge him basically off of two songs is unfair. Let’s listen to the album and see what he’s got. He’s still a young man in development.
March 9, 2023 @ 9:19 am
Trigger, I wholeheartedly agree – pretentious independent fans denigrate artists as they become popular. But there are legitimate reasons for some of the artists you mentioned. Chris Stapleton, while an enormous talent, has released far less interesting material after Traveler. In my opinion, even the songs on Traveler were a step below his songs with the Steeldrivers from a songcraft point of view.
With Sturgill, Metamodern was an absolute masterpiece – best album of the 21st Century for me. But I don’t blame country fans for not embracing A Sailor’s Guide. As great as it was, it wasn’t very country. After that, there is the album that I won’t even name. I don’t blame any of his fans for tuning out on that one. Couple that with increasingly unaffordable tickets, statements that ring pretentious or whiny, and I can see why fans say “you know what, he’s no longer the Sturg I fell in love with.”
Tyler Childers is seemingly going through that phase now. I know many disagree, but every release after Purgatory seems like a decline in quality from the previous.
I completely see what you’re saying with Zach Bryan though. He hasn’t declined one bit in quality. He’s trying to keep his tickets affordable. The only crime he’s committed is that he’s now a household name and #1 songwriter, and people rag on him in the comments here. He won’t be everybody’s cup of tea, but he’s done nothing to alienate us.
March 9, 2023 @ 9:57 am
For fans there is never that time again when you first find an artist. Everything is measured against that first album. Fans will want more of the same, then complain about no change, or complain the new isn’t like the old.
Some artists do it to themselves (Sturgil). Don’t get the hate for Stapleton. He may not ever capture that first album again, but every thing since has been good at the minimum. As for Logan, at least let him get his debut out lol. His best may be his next after this. He’s 19.
March 9, 2023 @ 6:54 pm
I really rate Cole Chaney based on that one record, Im interested in everything Tyler Childers does too but liked Purgatory most out of everything so far and was bewildered by the christian record not because ive no spirituality but because it was so self indulgent especially when your performing other christian songs that would have better justified three records of material. Im not sure Id say Tyler has sold out though its not commericial country or roots music or whatever you call it , its just that its like hes not lived up to his potential.
Logan’s record ill be taking an interest too but with coles record not being that old really I cant see the point of recording one of his songs unless its different too the original.
March 11, 2023 @ 5:32 pm
I’m super excited about this album. Dark Black Coal grabbed my attention immediately up on hearing it. Hard to believe Logan is 19.