Jon Langford / The Pine Valley Cosmonauts

The Executioner's Last Songs, Vols. 2-3

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Jon Langford and the Pine Valley Cosmonauts' second collection of songs about murder, death, and dying -- recorded to benefit the Illinois Coalition Against the Death Penalty and the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty -- certainly ups the ante of ambition and diversity over The Executioner's Last Songs, and while Vol. 2 & 3 lacks some of the purity and concision of the first disc, the consistent quality of the performances certainly compensates. Where for the most part The Executioner's Last Songs sounded like the work of a single band with a number of different singers taking their turns at the mike, on the follow-up Langford, Steven Goulding, Tom Ray, Celine, and the various guest Cosmonauts on deck bend more to the style of their guests, which given the artists on board was perhaps inevitable. Mark Eitzel, Kevin Coyne, Kurt Wagner, and David Yow, to name but four of the artists teaming up with the PVC here, are simply the sort of performers who can't help but sound like themselves, and with more original songs and contemporary compositions on display, this two-CD set suggests less of a ramble through the morbid tributaries of Anglo-American traditional music than some sort of death-obsessed folk and pop festival, where the Grim Reaper is met with good cheer (Rhett Miller's "Dang Me"), snide wit (Pat Brennan's "Death Where Is Thy Sting"), fatalistic nostalgia (Dave Alvin's "Green Green Grass of Home"), or resigned regret (Otis Clay's "Banks of the Ohio"). All 27 tracks are worth hearing, and regardless of your stand on the death penalty, The Executioner's Last Songs, Vol. 2 & 3 boasts far too much good music from too many worthy artists for anyone with even a passing interest in roots music to pass up.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 5:00
2 3:31
feat: Kurt Wagner
feat: Otis Clay
5 3:17
feat: Kelly Hogan
feat: Rico Bell
8 2:12
9 2:59
10 2:04
feat: David Yow
feat: Sally Timms
13 5:12
blue highlight denotes track pick