|Topic TSCD 804
Dealing with Britain's coal miners. (TSCD 804)
original album Release Date: 1959
In many ways, The Big Hewer works in a way that's different from the other radio ballads. It uses the testimony of miners
from several areas of Britain, interspersed with song (most notably the recurring "Go Down") by Ewan MacColl, and sound effects
from the mines. But it also evokes a bigger, mythical figure: the Big Hewer, the towering figure of different coalfields.
From the old-style "drift mines" to the shafts going far into the earth to the modern, largely automated mines, MacColl, Peggy
Seeger, and Charles Parker saw how life was lived and had the miners recount it all, from going down the pit for the first
time at 14 to those who never came out and their lives away from the collieries. The songs, such as "When I Am Down the Pit,"
are wonderfully written and performed with joy by artists like A.L. Lloyd and Louis Killen. It's impossible to avoid the subject
of death since it surrounds the miners, and it's not shied away from, from the miners talking to the wives who have to wait.
And it's an industry that's an important part of British history, having fueled the Industrial Revolution, as "Three Hundred
Years I Hewed at the Coal by Hand" recounts. More than anything, what comes across is the profound admiration the producers
have for the miners. Not merely for their physical prowess, but their attitude, humor, political activism, and education.
While things have changed, as they point out on "Today, Safety Is the Prime Factor," some things remain the same: the endurance
of the miners themselves, and the extreme physical conditions. Even as they were making the radio ballad, however, things
were changing. Mines were closing, and a whole industry was dying. This was far form its last hurrah, but it stands as on
ongoing celebration of some remarkable men.
1. When You Hew A Lump Of Coal
2. Out Of The Dirt And Darkness I Was Born
3. Schoolday's Over, Con On Then, John
4. Now Don't Be Late
5. You're At The Pit Bank
6. Oh Dear, The Experience To Go Down The Pit
7. When I Am Down In The Pit
8. So Now You Know The Coal How It Is Got
9. Jimmy, Come Back, Come Back
10. Yes... He Was Working Next To Me
11. And Yet It's Good To Come From The Pit
12. Three Hundred Years I Hewed At The Coal By Hand
13. Down In The Dark
14. In Durham And Northumberland, I'm Sorry To Say
15. A Miner Has To Posess That Sense Of Humour
16. Coal Is A Thing That's Cost Life To Get
17. Today, Safety Is The Prime Factor
18. Deep Down In A Man's Heart