Jon Langford & The Pine Valley Cosmonauts 

The Executioner's Last Songs, Vol. 1

As far as American songs go, the most popular subjects seem to be romantic love/carnal desire, commentary/protest, transportation (first, trains; later, cars), and death. Well, to paraphrase Carl Sandburg (or was it Mark Twain?), everybody complains about death, but nobody ever does anything about it -- until now, that is. Mekon/Waco Brother Jon Langford has organized and produced The Executioner's Last Songs, a benefit album for the Illinois Death Penalty Moratorium Project. Rather than going for a compilation of self-righteous protest songs, the unifying concept here is an album full of country, bluegrass, and folk songs about the morality of humankind.

The array of guest vocalists reads like a who's-who of The Wacos' Dean Schlabowske does a chugging honky-tonk take on the Adverts' punk classic "Gary Gilmore's Eyes," while indie-rock goddess Jenny Toomey gives the torch standard "Miss Otis Regrets" a new lease on life with her gorgeous baroque-folk rendition. Edith Frost does a soulfully dignified version of Merle Haggard's death row hymn "Sing Me Back Home," which combines honky-tonk and bluegrass, and Steve Earle wipes the Kingston Trio's hit "Tom Dooley" from your consciousness by turning it into an eerie blues and feedback-tinged mantra. Other high points include Lonesome Bob giving the sinister "Pardon Me (I've Got Someone to Kill)" an appropriately laconic treatment á la Waylon Jennings, and vocal spitfire Neko Case performing the bluegrass-rocker "Poor Ellen Smith." Regardless of your position on the death penalty, The Executioner's Last Songs is a fine, darkly funny, spirited, poignant, and harrowing collection of roots music.


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Anonymous and pseudonymous comments will be removed.

Latest in CD Reviews

Author Archives

Most Popular Stories

Special Reports

The Beer Issue 2020

The Decade in Review

The events and trends that shaped the Teens.

Best of the East Bay


© 2020 Telegraph Media    All Rights Reserved
Powered by Foundation