Jon Langford / The Pine Valley Cosmonauts

The Executioner's Last Songs

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AllMusic Review by Chris Nickson

It's a great idea, an album to benefit the Illinois Death Penalty Moratorium Project, and who better to execute it (pun intended) than the linchpin of the Chicago alt-country movement, Mekons and Waco Brother member Jon Langford? He's reassembled the occasional Pine Valley Cosmonauts to back a bunch of artists on tales of death, murder, and execution. There's everything from the traditional and gruesome ("Knoxville Girl" from Brett Sparks and a very powerful, gritty "Tom Dooley" by Steve Earle, as graphic as any gangsta rap) to straight-up country (Johnny Paycheck's "Pardon Me (I've Got Someone to Kill)," which these days stands almost as a parody of a country song, albeit a chilling one), all the way to standards (post-punk feminist icon Jenny Toomey on a lovely acoustic rendition of Cole Porter's "Miss Otis Regrets"), punk (the Adverts' "Gary Gilmore's Eyes" interpreted by Dean Schlabowske), and originals (Johnny Dowd's "Judgement Day," among others). It's an odd assemblage, but it hangs together very well, not just because of the thematic content, but also the intensity of the performances, like Edith Frost's luminous "Sing Me Back Home" or Dianne Izzo's raw take on "Oh Death." Apart from contributing guitar and some vocals throughout, Langford does get a couple of moments in the spotlight, duetting on the Dowd cut, then on "The Plans We Made," a tale of love gone awfully wrong that he sings with fellow Mekon Sally Timms. There's no bad cut here, although Tony Fitzpatrick's "Idiot Whistle" proselytizes a little too much, and "The Hangman's Song" from Christa Meyer and Tim Kelley of Puerto Muerto is just plain weird. But this album makes its points in very plain, blunt terms, and offers some excellent music along the way. If you still don't think music and politics can mix, start here.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 The Pine Valley Cosmonauts / Jon Langford feat: Brett Sparks 04:03 Amazon
2 The Pine Valley Cosmonauts / Jon Langford feat: Rosie Flores 02:18 Amazon
3
The Pine Valley Cosmonauts / Jon Langford feat: Kelly Hogan / Dean Schlabowske / Sally Timms 02:17 Amazon
4 The Pine Valley Cosmonauts / Jon Langford feat: Janet Bean / Janet Beveridge Bean 03:03 Amazon
5 The Pine Valley Cosmonauts / Jon Langford feat: Steve Earle 04:34 Amazon
6
The Pine Valley Cosmonauts / Jon Langford feat: Tim Kelley / Christa Meyer / Puerto Muerto 03:55 Amazon
7 The Pine Valley Cosmonauts / Jon Langford feat: Lonesome Bob 03:41 Amazon
8 The Pine Valley Cosmonauts / Jon Langford feat: Neko Case 02:07 Amazon
9 The Pine Valley Cosmonauts / Jon Langford feat: Jenny Toomey 04:08 Amazon
10 The Pine Valley Cosmonauts / Jon Langford feat: Johnny Dowd / Johnny Dowd & Jon Langford 03:56 Amazon
11
The Pine Valley Cosmonauts / Jon Langford feat: Chris Ligon 02:42 Amazon
12 The Pine Valley Cosmonauts / Jon Langford feat: Edith Frost 03:30 Amazon
13 The Pine Valley Cosmonauts / Jon Langford feat: Diane Izzo 04:54 Amazon
14 The Pine Valley Cosmonauts / Jon Langford feat: Rick "Cookin'" Sherry 03:38 Amazon
15 The Pine Valley Cosmonauts / Jon Langford feat: Sally Timms 04:53 Amazon
16 The Pine Valley Cosmonauts / Jon Langford feat: Frankie & Johnny Navin 03:34 Amazon
17 The Pine Valley Cosmonauts / Jon Langford feat: Tony Fitzpatrick 01:52 Amazon
18 The Pine Valley Cosmonauts / Jon Langford feat: Paul Burch 04:28 Amazon
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