“You never know how much you need music until you don’t have it.” -Damien Echols, Life After Death
Damien Echols, ason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley, Jr. were convicted in 1994 of the 1993 reportedly ritual satanic murders of three 8-year old children in West Memphis. In 2011 thee men entered Alford pleas, which allowed them to assert their innocence while acknowledging that prosecutors have enough evidence to convict them. Their pleas were accepted the the men and sentenced to time served. They were then released with ten-year suspended sentences, having each served 18 years and 78 days behind bars.
“West of Memphis: Voices for Justice” is music from and inspired by West of Memphis, the documentary film written and directed by Academy Award nominated filmmaker, Amy Berg and produced by Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh (the Lord of the Rings triology), Damien Echols and Lorri Davis.
In every instance of involvement, the artists on the soundtrack decided which song they felt reflected their personal feelings about the case. There’s a connection between the music and the man remaining at its center, Damien Echols.
The soundtrack features Henry Rollins and Johnny Depp each lending their voices to excerpts from Damien Echols’ letters from death row recited over a Nick Cave / Warren Ellis score featured in the film.
Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks covers of Pink Floyd’s “Mother.” “Satellite” is covered by Eddie Vedder which was written for Lorri Davis, Damien Echols’ wife, as part of a collection of songs Eddie recorded for the couple in 2000. Artists also featured are Lucinda Williams, Band of Horses, Patti Smith, Citizen Cope and others each bringing particular stories around the songs that represent them on this collection.
My favorite cut on the album is from The White Buffalo (aka Jake Smith.) He lends his baritone vibrato, and moody melodic stye, to the Faster Pussycat 1989 ballad that kept Damien company while sitting on death row.