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The Pine Valley Cosmonauts

The Executioner's Last Songs Volume 2 & 3 – 2003 (Bloodshot)

Reviewed by Stuart Munro

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CDs by The Pine Valley Cosmonauts

Another round of songs of "murder and cruel, cruel punishment" with a purpose from Jon Langford and the revolving cast of players known as the Pine Valley Cosmonauts - actually, another two rounds, since this time the music spans two discs, with the proceeds being split between two anti-death penalty organizations. While the project is obviously intended to have a definite political effect, musically it remains happily free of proselytizing (with the exception of a scabrous bit of work from Mark Eitzel). Instead, Langford has again called upon band cronies, Chicago townies and various alt.-country and indie luminaries, who've responded with an assortment of traditional tunes, country standards and obscurities, and a few original numbers.

They continue to draw on the endless well of murder songs, especially those that have to do with murder due to love gone wrong and the consequences thereof -hanging, usually. There's a rollicking run-through of Tom Jones' old hit "Delilah;" a fantastic "Banks of the Ohio" done country soul style by the legendary Otis Clay; two, count'em, two equally worthy takes on the classic "Green, Green Grass of Home" from Dave Alvin and Kelly Hogan; and a nice "Hangin' Me Tonight" by Gurf Morlix (and what better album to be represented here than Marty Robbins' "Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs"?).

The proceedings go a bit farther afield, too: to the goofy (Rhett Miller doing Roger Miller's "Dang Me"), the horrific (Diane Izzo doing "Strange Fruit"), and the Olympian (Pat Brennan's own smoky, Waitsian "Death Where Is Thy Sting?"). All in all, another consistently fine collection from Langford and company.