Record Review - 1 July 24 2003

The folks at Bloodshot Records, in collaboration with Mekon/Waco Brother Jon Langford, once again pool the talents of Bloodshot’s artists and friends to record classic songs (and a few originals) about death in The Executioner’s Last Songs, Volume 2 & 3. A follow-up to Vol. 1, its proceeds also go toward fighting the death penalty, and it’s distinguished by Langford’s eye-catching artwork. However, like its predecessor’s, Vol. 2 & 3’s 27 tracks range from way cool to way bad, with a lot of average but acceptable performances in between. The songs aren’t always on topic, notably Rhett Miller’s cover of “Dang Me,” which makes the cut simply because of one line: “They oughta take a rope and hang me.”

So what’s really good? Two Dave Alvin tracks are a treat, although he repeats a version of Kelly Hogan’s poignant “Green Green Grass of Home.” Langford and Sally Timms’ unique reading of Tom Jones’ classic “Delilah” turns it into a tavern sing-along.

What’s really bad? Even Diane Izzo’s pleasant voice can’t save “Strange Fruit,” and a sloppy take by Alejandro Escovedo, Langford and Alvin spoils “Bad News.” Mark Eitzel’s “God’s Eternal Love” skewers the religious right for their incongruent belief systems, then, with thinly veiled wishes of tragedy and loss, sinks to their level.

In short, buy this typical Bloodshot package at your own risk.

Jon Langford and the Waco Brothers perform at the Echo Lounge Sun., July 27. $10.