Support Local Journalism. Join Riverfront Times Press Club.

The Pine Valley Cosmonauts 

The Executioner's Last Songs, Volumes 2 & 3 (Bloodshot)

Just shy of one year later, the Pine Valley Cosmonauts revisit scenes of murder and mob law with Volumes 2 and 3 of The Executioner's Last Songs. The first album raised over $40,000 for the Illinois Death Penalty Moratorium Project, and all artists' proceeds from Volumes 2 and 3 will benefit the National Coalition Against the Death Penalty. But no matter where your views stand or fall in the political spectrum, this is a first-rate benefit compilation, a genre often deservedly dismissed as the red-headed stepchild of music critics, who more often than not disdain such ventures as subpar and superfluous. Here, the Pine Valley Cosmonauts offer 27 tunes that celebrate, threaten, lament and bemoan the hangman's cruel, cruel punishment, augmented by a core of seven mainstays -- Jon Langford, Steve Goulding, Tom V. Ray, Celine, Sally Timms, Pat Brennan and Drew Carson -- and an additional twenty or so guest stars who bring their sweeping influences to the enterprise.

Five traditionals are featured, the best of which is the CD's closer, a 1967 recording of "Tom Dooley" by the Sundowners, whose terrifically harmonized performance is free of the irony accrued over the intervening decades. A close second is the Meat Purveyors' souped-up, overwrought bluegrass take on "John Hardy," which is surprisingly faithful to the Carter Family's classic rendition of the nineteenth-century tale of murder, repentance, religion and execution.

Originals more brightly shine on the second disc. On "God's Eternal Love," Mark Eitzel threatens good Christians: "Those you lock away will defeat you/They know all your secrets/They wear your indifference like a boast/And your death is only the key to their future/And your children are just pigs they will roast." With "Saviour," English cult-fave Kevin Coyne delivers socially conscious R&B via a six-minute-plus reproof of the world: "Help me find the water/Help me find the river," he chants in the voice of a condemned man hopelessly seeking salvation.

Overall, the two new volumes of The Executioner's Last Songs improve on the first volume's formula, which conveyed the impression of a single band fronted by scores of rotating lead singers. This installment shares with its predecessor the skillful evocation of humor, sarcasm, fatalism, nostalgia and resignation. Like much of country music, the songs vacillate between condemning and romanticizing their protagonists, but they all strive to humanize rather than demonize; collectively, they serve as "one plucky little chisel" digging at the walls of death row.

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Riverfront Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Riverfront Times Club for as little as $5 a month.

Speaking of...

Read the Digital Print Issue

June 16, 2021

View more issues

Newsletters

Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In St. Louis

© 2021 Riverfront Times

Website powered by Foundation