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Mine Inspector Pens Tribute To The Upper Big Branch Disaster

SOCORRO, N.M. December 20, 2010 – After an explosion ripped through the Upper Big Branch Mine in southern West Virginia on April 5, 2010, New Mexico State Mine Inspector Terence Foreback was inspired to memorialize the 29 miners who lost their lives that day.
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Holy Water and Whiskey performing 'Upper Big Branch' at the 2010 Mine Safety Conference in Socorro.

Shortly after the tragedy, which was the worst mining disaster in 40 years, Tech hosted the annual New Mexico Mine Health and Safety Conference. Foreback wanted to honor the victims of the tragedy with a song titled “Upper Big Branch” that would be performed at the conference.


Back in April, Foreback wrote his lyrics and sent them to the group Holy Water and Whiskey, who hail from Albuquerque, and asked them to put the lyrics to music.

The group had performed at the 2009 conference and was returning in 2010 for another engagement. Maggie Werner-Washburne, lead vocalist and songwriter for the group, rewrote portions of the lyrics and added lyrics to the chorus.

Washburn’s lyrics included lines inspired by watching some of the memorial services for the victims. The group then added the music and worked hard to finish it in three weeks for the May 3 engagement.

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State Mine Inspector Terence Foreback

“The conference attendees were spellbound by the performance,” Foreback said. “There were many tears shed by the miners in attendance. We used it as a tribute to the miners and to set the tone for the conference on how crucial mining safety is. While mining has become safer through the years, events such as this remind us we can never let our guard down”.

The Albuquerque band Holy Water and Whiskey recently released their new CD titled Miners, Outlaws and Other Relatives.  The “Upper Big Branch” song is one of several on the CD that sing to the mining profession. To hear samples of all the songs on the album or to purchase a CD, click here.

When Foreback was asked about continuing as a lyricist, he said, “I better keep my day job as the State Mine Inspector here at New Mexico Tech. My priority is working to promote the safety of our New Mexico miners.”

–        NMT –