“Black Coal Lung” is the latest single from Utah based band Gary Dranow and the manic emotions, led by former athlete and musician Gary Dranow. The band stays true to its claim of being unbounded by genre as every single track from the music project’s upcoming album “Never Give Up” has been scratching a different itch. “Black Coal Lung” does the same with country music.

The free reed wind instrument that is present right from the start is the most charming element of the song for me.  It follows the vocal melody and adds charisma and character to the song. The different string instruments come together harmoniously and serve almost as beat keepers along with the very light and slow percussion that maintains a leg tapping beat. The instrumentation is slow, but the production prevents the song from becoming a ballad. I thought that the lead vocalist did a great job using his husky coarse voice to his strength and making it work with the mood of the song.

The melancholy of the song does not reflect sonically and one needs to carefully listen to the lyrics to understand that the themes being addressed are devastating indeed. Gray Dranow explores the harsh living and working conditions of forgotten small towns where coal dust is prevalent as a result of mining and industrialisation. He speaks about how a one-hour drive to and from the place makes it difficult to access, and while dreams are built on the coal it also makes it difficult to breathe. He does not romanticize small towns and instead speaks about empty playgrounds and how the children study in dusty classrooms and nobody listens to them cry. The hook of the song “Black Coal Lung, in our chest and lives, underneath the blackened sky, to try and break free” is perfectly apt.

Although the song is elaborate, being almost six minutes long with two verses, a bridge, a guitar solo and the chorus repeating itself thrice, it doesn’t get tiring or boring. My experience of listening to Gary Dranow has gotten better with each track and I hope they keep bringing new things to the table!