"Songs of murder, mob law and cruel, cruel punishment" get the once-over

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This Month In Americana

A cursory glance at the guest list alone is enough. Creaming together a fantasy league of Dave Alvin, Kurt Wagner, Mark Eitzel, Otis Clay, Chris Mills, Alejandro Escovedo, Kevin Coyne and others is some feat, but it’s both a mark of the admiration afforded Jon Langford within the industry as it is devotion to the cause. Alongside Steve Earle, ex-Mekon/current Waco Brother Langford is the most vehement opponent of his adopted America’s death laws within the musical field. Hoping to achieve a similar result to last year’s Vol 1 (Governor George Ryan soon waived Illinois’ incumbent Death Rowers after its $40,000 success), Vols 2 & 3?benefits go to both the Illinois and national coalitions to abolish corporal punishment?land at once due to the number of names eager to contribute. The greatest moments, however, aren’t all where you’d expect. The Meat Purveyors’ trembling mandolin-fest “John Hardy” is narrowly edged out as Vol 3’s highlight by Coyne’s snarling “Saviour”, while over on the first CD, Wagner’s reading of Tom Waits'”The Fall Of Troy” is almost unbearably heartbreaking. Next to Diane Izzo’s take on ultimate anti-racism anthem “Strange Fruit”, it’s the most extraordinary song on this collection.