John Mellencamp covers old country tune for new documentary about the U.S. coal industry

Credit: Marc HauserJohn Mellencamp has recorded a cover of country legend Merle Travis‘ 1946 song “Dark as a Dungeon,” a tune about the harsh life of a coal miner, for a new National Geographic documentary. Called From the Ashes, the film focuses on the history and future of the U.S. coal industry. The track can be purchased as a digital single on iTunes.

A live version of “Dark as a Dungeon” famously appears on Johnny Cash‘s classic 1968 album At Folsom Prison. Mellencamp’s rendition of the tune showcases the Rock & Roll Hall of Famer’s gravelly voice, accompanied by a female backing singer, an accordion and a tapped tambourine.

A video for the song can be seen onMellencamp’s official YouTube channel. The clip features black-and-white footage of John singing the tune in a studio, intercut with clips from the documentary.

From the Ashes premiered on the National Geographic network this past Sunday, June 25, and is available to be viewed for free through Monday, July 3, on National Geographic’s YouTube channel and Facebook page,, Nat Geo TV Apps and other video outlets.

The film takes an in-depth look of the impact coal has had on the environment, the climate and people’s health, as well as the efforts to replace coal with cleaner forms of energy.  It also focuses on how the waning use of coal has affected U.S. communities, that had relied on the industry as their source of income.

For more information about the movie, visit

In other news, Mellencamp will be featured on the next episode of CBS Sunday Morning, which airs this Sunday, July 2, at 9 a.m. ET on CBS. In the segment, Jane Pauley visits Mellencamp at his Indiana home and interviews him about his music, his painting and other topics, including how smoking has affected his singing voice.

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