Entertainment » Music

Ghost Brothers of Darkland County

by Steven Bergman
Contributor
Monday Jun 10, 2013
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Take one of rock and roll’s most soulful expressionists, and combine his artistic sensibility with the master of horror and suspense, and you get a dark musical tale that mixes sincere musical landscapes with a desperate story that could only come from the minds of John Mellencamp and Stephen King.

That’s what "Ghost Brothers of Darkland County" is. This concept album is based on a true story: Mellencamp bought a cabin some years ago, and found out that the house was haunted by the ghosts of two brothers, and their girlfriend, who were killed in a murder/suicide. The story inspired Mellencamp (the classic writer / performer of such hits as "Jack and Diane" and "Pink Houses") to consider how the ghost story could be told musically. He approached King (whose 2012 epic, "Under The Dome" will premiere as a television series this summer), and the two tapped award-winning producer T-Bone Burnett to music direct the project.

The resulting recording is a concept album featuring Sheryl Crow as Jenna (the dead girlfriend) and Kris Kristofferson as Joe, the only one who knows what happened that night long ago to his brothers, and who is gallantly attempting to prevent history from repeating itself.

Country stars Ryan Bingham and Will Dailey sing Frank and Drake, Joe’s sons, with Brigham’s "You Are Blind," expressing Drake’s confusion about the young woman he shares with his own brother, one of the musical highlights. Jack and Andy (Joe’s dead brothers) are powerfully sung by real brothers Dave and Phil Alvin from the Blasters, whose trios with Crow ("Home Again" and "So Goddamn Smart") unify the three teens, and eventually reveal the circumstances that lead to their death. Elvis Costello appears as "The Shape," a Lucifer-type character who adds a supernatural angle to the fatal crime that remained hidden until Joe (Kristofferson) is finally ready to unveil the family’s secret to his boys. At 76, Kristofferson’s can still deliver a good story, especially on "How Many Days,"

A 107-page book is available for purchase digitally, and if you want to know the details of King’s libretto - the first one of his illustrious career - it’s recommended, as the songs provide a gritty soundscape about a dysfunctional family’s demise, but even with included narration from the likes of Matthew McConaghey, Meg Ryan, and the late Joe Frazier, it’s difficult to decipher the plot from the recording alone. However, as a whole, the recording is a cohesive song cycle that, sans narration, is an engaging listen from two of our most respected artists from the worlds of rock and horror.

"Ghost Brothers of Darkland County (Original Concept Recording)"
John Mellencamp / Stephen King
CD and Digital formats
Concord Music Group

Steven Bergman is a Composer / Playwright / Performing Arts Educator based outside of Boston, MA.

Comments

  • Anonymous, 2013-06-15 19:16:59

    For Ipod users an enhanced version of The Libretto is available. It actually gives you an audio/video experience that gives us an enjoyable experience with the story and music. It’s a shame that this is not available for the other tablet computers on the market. Actually it would have been nice is the producers had included the tablet portion on the hardcover dvd. I am a little puzzled why 3 songs from the musical were left off the CD’s and the digital tablet versions.


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