Release Date: Jun 4, 2013
Record label: Hear Music (Starbucks)
Genre(s): Country, Americana, Pop/Rock, Roots Rock, Stage & Screen, Cast Recordings, Musical Theater
Ghost Brothers of Darkland County, a sprawling production authored by John Mellencamp and Stephen King that the press release calls a “Southern gothic, supernatural musical,” has been about 13 years in the making. Those facts alone are enough to inspire considerable skepticism. To begin with, the principals are notoriously inconsistent, albeit gifted, artists.
Termed a "Southern gothic musical," Ghost Brothers of Darkland County was scripted by novelist Stephen King with the music coming from maverick heartland rocker John Mellencamp, a collaboration a bit left-field for both artists. This set includes Mellencamp's songs interspersed with key dialogue from King's libretto, and while the story might be too complex -- essentially, it's the tale of two brothers involved in a murder/suicide whose ghosts haunt an isolated cabin and whose tragic deeds and consequent fate seems about to be repeated by their living nephews -- to be truly appreciated in single-disc form like this, so it's Mellencamp's songs, sung by the likes of Elvis Costello, Neko Case, Sheryl Crow, Dave and Phil Alvin (real-life brothers whose estrangement with each other ended while working on this project), Taj Mahal, Ryan Bingham, Clyde Mulroney, Rosanne Cash, and Kris Kristofferson (Mellencamp only sings on one song here, the summing-it-up last track "Truth") that are really left to carry things. They certainly work as songs, and may well be among the best Mellencamp has ever written, while the overall sound of the whole musical suite, crafted by T-Bone Burnett, is kind of like a sparse and shined-up version of a late-period Tom Waits album, due in part to the presence of multi-instrumentalist Marc Ribot on most of the tracks, and the tight, spare rhythm section of Jay Bellerose on drums and David Piltch on bass.
Did someone say “all-star cast?” How about this play written by Stephen King with John Mellencamp handling the songwriting and T Bone Burnett as the music director? Add singers that include Americana frontrunners Dave and Phil Alvin, Neko Case, Sheryl Crow, Rosanne Cash, Ryan Bingham, Taj Mahal, Kris Kristofferson, Elvis Costello and others for what should be a can’t-miss ensemble knockout. Unfortunately this relatively complex story of two feuding brothers and associated sibling ghosts set in a rural Mississippi cabin which was 13 years in the making, doesn’t work nearly as well removed from the striking visuals and acting of the play. On stage, this is a riveting, haunting, wonderfully conceived production where the songs define the characters and move the story forward.
I haven’t seen Ghost Brothers of Darkland County, the new musical from the combined efforts of Stephen King and John Mellencamp. But I have heard the folk and country that build up its soundtrack. An all-star cast – including Matthew McConaughey, Meg Ryan, Neko Case, and Roseanne Cash – performs the new piece. Kris Kristofferson and Elvis Costello even pull double-duty; the former tells the tale while the latter plays “The Shape”, aka the devil himself.
Elvis Costello playing Satan – summoning his inner music-hall ham – is just one notable star turn in this soundtrack to Stephen King and John Mellencamp's musical. Based on a true story, the tale of Southern brothers and their grim family legacy is sung by Neko Case, Sheryl Crow, Taj Mahal, Kris Kristofferson, Rosanne Cash, real-life feuding siblings Dave and Phil Alvin, and more. T Bone Burnett shapes the time-traveling roots music, which illuminates the story, along with King's libretto.
Flippancy has faded and distortion has cleared on “... Like Clockwork,” the sixth studio album by Queens of the Stone Age. It’s the first new album since 2007 for the band led by the songwriter, singer and guitarist Josh Homme. It’s also the band’s first album since Mr. Homme’s heart ….