Pine Valley Cosmonauts The Executioner's Last Songs Vol. 1

I'm still not sure I grasp the concept of re-recording many of the great death and murder ballads in order to benefit a moratorium on capital punishment, but either way it's reason enough to let Jon Langford's Bloodshot stable dig into this material. The dilemma is that these weren't meant to be protest songs and almost all of these selections reflect a time when American justice was much more swift and ruthless. The point is obviously that things haven't changed that much, but Steve Earle has made that point much better on his own records, rather than on his reading of "Tom Dooley," heard here. On the other hand, it's probably better that the album isn't overly preachy; songs like "I'll Never Get Out Of This World Alive," done here by Rosie Flores, pretty much sums up all that needs to be said on the subject. That just leaves the twisted appeal that murder ballads have always held. Is it wrong to be enthralled by Brett Sparks's take on "Knoxville Girl" or Neko Case's "Poor Ellen Smith" while still wanting to abolish death row? In assembling this album, Langford clearly answers "no" - that's up to the good Lord to decide. (Bloodshot)