I’m not what you would call a fan of musicals (though I do have a soft spot for The Sound of Music) but I am intrigued by the Gothic musical Ghost Brothers of Darkland County CD release. The result of a more than a decade long project between horror-rock master (and Americana music fan ) Stephen King and and roots/rock legend John Mellencamp. As the musical got closer to completion they brought in singer/songwriter and producer T Bone Burnett to help flesh out the music. Burnett, who helmed the music for the Cohen Brother’s O Brother, Where Art Thou? and Scott Cooper’s Crazy Heart was brought in to “… create the vibe.”
The genesis of the project was Mellencamp who in the late 1990swas inspired by his own supposedly haunted cabin in Bloomington, IN . The lore goes that in the 1930s two brothers got into a fight over a woman at the cabin, and one of them wound up accidentally dead. The surviving brother and the woman sped away in a car, but crashed into a lake a short time later and both drowned.the stuff of Gothic lore, though the absence of moonshine and firearms works against it being Southern Gothic lore.
Mellencamp interpretats the story as “…two brothers; they’re 19 years old or 20, maybe 18 or 21, who are very competitive and dislike each other immensely. The father takes them to the family vacation place, a cabin that the boys hadn’t been to since they were kids. What has happened is that the father had two older brothers who hated each other and killed each other in that cabin There’s a confederacy of ghosts who also live in this house. The older [dead] brothers are there, and they speak to the audience, and they sing to the audience. That’s all I want to say, except through this family vacation, many things are learned about the family, and many interesting songs are sung.” Again I emphasis the lack of moonshine and firearms!
Both King and Mellencamp welcomed to opportunity to challenge themselves. “You can just keep doing the same shit and you’ll make a living at it,” says King.
The musical oped at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia, between April 4, 2012 until May 13, 2012 and was directed by Alliance Theatre Artistic Director Susan V. Booth, with musical direction by T Bone Burnett. The cast of the upcoming production is led by Tony Award winner Shuler Hensley (Young Frankenstein, Oklahoma, Sweet and Sad) and Tony Award nominee Emily Skinner (Billy Elliot, Side Show, James Joyce’s The Dead), and includes Justin Guarini (“American Idol,” American Idiot, Women on the Verge…), blues musician and actor Jake La Botz, Lucas Kavner (Completeness, The Blue Flower), Kate Ferber (One Child Born: the Music of Laura Nyro), Christopher Morgan (Gut Bucket Blues) and country musician Dale Watson.
Variety reviewed the show harshly, stating ” By the end of the show, you may yearning for “Carrie.” Ouch.
Though music created for a theatrical setting has it’s own flavor there’s no denying the pedigree of Americana music talent involved CD release. But judging by the Elvis Costello cut “That’s Me,” sung not by Costello but by a member of the cast, I think this could be a great idea that misses the mark.
Ghost Brothers of Darkland County will be available as Standard Edition CD featureing the complete soundtrack, dialog excerpts and digital libretto. The (2CD/1DVD) Deluxe Edition contains the complete soundtrack (with and without dialog), deluxe art work, handwritten lyrics, specially printed libretto and the “Making of Ghost Brothers” mini-documentary DVD featuring in-depth interviews with King, Mellencamp and Burnett along with other bonus material. Digital editions for tablets, smartphones and e-readers will allow users to interact with the soundtrack + digital libretto, as well as exclusive video and graphic materials.
GHOST BROTHERS OF DARKLAND COUNTY
-Libretto by Stephen King
-Music & Lyrics by John Mellencamp
-Musical Direction by T Bone Burnett
-Featured cast: Kris Kristofferson, Meg Ryan,
Matthew McConaughey, Samantha Mathis, Elvis Costello
Ghost Brothers of Darkland County track listing:
That’s Me – Elvis Costello (listen at bottom of post)
That’s Who I Am – Neko Case
So Goddamn Smart – Dave Alvin, Phil Alvin, Sheryl Crow
Wrong, Wrong, Wrong About Me – Elvis Costello
Brotherly Love – Ryan Bingham and Will Dailey
How Many Days – Kris Kristofferson
You Are Blind – Ryan Bingham
Home Again – Sheryl Crow, Dave Alvin, Phil Alvin, Taj Mahal
What’s Going On Here – Rosanne Cash
My Name Is Joe – Clyde Mulroney
Tear This Cabin Down – Taj Mahal
And Your Days Are Gone – Sheryl Crow, Dave Alvin, Phil Alvin
Jukin’ – Sheryl Crow
What Kind Of Man Am I – Kris Kristofferson, Phil Alvin, Sheryl Crow Dave Alvin, Taj Mahal
So Goddamn Good – Phil Alvin, Dave Alvin, Sheryl Crow
Away From This World – Sheryl Crow
Truth – John Mellencamp
Good stuff. I think you should take a look at this rising band called PC & The Angels of Death. http://pcandtheangelsofdeath.weebly.com/
They remind me of the Burrito Brothers/ Gram Parsons.
Tamar Campbell -journalist
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