Listen to the Whole Soundtrack from ‘Ghost Brothers of Darkland County’

Depending on your taste and perhaps your generational cultural cues, Stephen King, T-Bone Burnett and John Mellencamp are either legends of their crafts or names you’ve seen on your dad’s shelves. Not too long ago, these three mighty forces came together to write a supernatural folk-rock musical, Ghost Brothers of Darkland County, which premiered in 2012 in Atlanta. Now, the team is releasing the whole all-star soundtrack, which will meet a wider public on June 4th.

Ghost Brothers of Darkland County is rooted in actual events, the story of a fight between two brothers in rural Indiana that ended in death and destruction and woe, as these things often do. Mellencamp brought the story to Stephen King, and the two came up with this tale of two sets of brothers, one living, one (presumably) dead, from the same family, and the younger must learn from the elder to not make the same mistakes. King wrote the book, Mellencamp wrote the songs, T-Bone Burnett produced, and now we have a soundtrack.

The musical’s songbook is full of stars in the country and folk worlds, including Sheryl Crow, Neko Case, Rosanne Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Elvis Costello and Taj Mahal. Crow, Phil Alvin, Taj Mahal and more reassure with the soothing, breezy “Home Again,” which sounds like it could close an act, with the words speaking of reconciliation and return. Kristofferson’s “How Many Days” is dusty and contemplative, trudging with intent across the Indiana plains and speaking with a voice that sounds quite haunted. Elvis Costello’s “That’s Me” is sinister but not malevolent, a good introduction for a ghostly character. Listen to the whole, lovely, haunted America soundtrack below.

[via the Wall Street Journal]

Elvis Costello, The Roots, Living Colour, Bettye LaVette & Others Pay Tribute to Robert Johnson

According to a tall tale, legendary guitarist Robert Johnson sold his soul to the Devil in order to become a great musician. There’s no real proof of this Faustian legend save for Johnson’s immense talent and status as the root of the blues genre. Last night, in celebration of his 100th birthday, a stellar line-up of musicians gathered at the historical Apollo Theater in Harlem to pay tribute to the man who has inspired generations of artists across the globe. A benefit for the building of a Blues Hall of Fame in Memphis, Tennessee, the event was co-produced and hosted by actor Joe Morton in league with the Blues Foundation in Memphis. 

Opening the show was the house band, made up of Steve Jordan, James Blood Ulmer, Keb Mo, Colin Linden, Sugar Blue, and Willie Weeks — a group that Morton asserted was "the greatest blues band ever assembled." After performing "Terraplane Blues," Otis Taylor came onstage with a banjo to perform a solo rendition of "Kindhearted Woman." Immediately afterward, Todd Rundgren stepped out to perform a second version of the song; Morton explained that multiple versions of songs would be performed, as Johnson himself would sometimes put the same song on a record more than once. Soon after came The Roots, performing a spirited "Milkcow’s Calf Blues."

In a surprising turn displaying his versatility, "star of stage and screen and anywhere he wants to be" Jeffrey Wright joined Keb Mo at the microphone to sing "Stones in My Passway." Tony-award winning actor and dancer Hinton Battle glided across the stage while Public Enemy frontman Chuck D rapped the verses of "Last Fair Deal Gone Down." A choir joined Macy Gray onstage for "Come on in My Kitchen," and things really heated up when the great Bettye LaVette and Taj Mahal performed "When You Got a Good Friend" together. Following Sarah Dash and Keb Mo’s "Honeymoon Blues," funk metal band Living Colour earned the first standing ovation of the night after an electric rendition of "Preachin’ Blues," featuring gut-busting basslines and ear-piercing vocals from Corey Glover. Soon they were joined by Shemekia Copeland for the first of three versions of "Stop Breakin’ Down."

In the second half of the show, Sam Moore sang a consumate cover of "Sweet Home Chicago," Predito Martinez Group performed a Latin-inspired "Travelin’ Riverside Blues," and Elvis Costello wandered out to perform a single song: "From Four Till Late." One of the night’s highlights, however was the lovely Bettye LaVette, who returned to the stage to sing "I’m a Steady Rollin’ Man" accompanied by Kevin Kiley on harmonica. Before she twisted around, encouraging cheers from the audience, the venerable soul singer announced, "I haven’t stood on this stage since 1965 — and it seemed much bigger." 

Other than Todd Rundgren’s second performance, before which he mentioned that it was also the 100th birthday of the Oreo cookie and likened himself to "an inside-out Oreo" to an awkward silence, the end of the show was full of energy, with the group of performers, including Keb Mo, Taj Mahal, Living Colour, Sarah Dash, Jeffrey Wright, and Bettye LaVette, joining Patrick Droney, the 2006 winner of the Robert Johnson Blues Foundation New Generation award, in "If I Had Possession Over Judgement Day." The cheering audience jumped out of their seats at Sam Moore’s insistence. The event proved that Johnson, despite meeting an early death at the age of 27, was eternally influential, and most contemporary musicians owe a debt to his trail-blazing music.