Southern Rock Opera
SXSW 02 Music Fest Wrap-up
Pine Valley CosmonautsMother Egan's, Saturday 16 If you think it's difficult putting together a cameo-laden benefit album about murder and capital punishment, try pulling it off onstage. This was the challenge assumed by the Pine Valley Cosmonauts, a mostly Chicago collective spearheaded by Mekon/Waco Brother Jon Langford, and successfully accomplished in their edifying and engaging The Executioner's Last Songs, 18 songs to benefit the Illinois Death Penalty Moratorium Project. Not surprising, in a set where each song had a different lineup, PVC's opening slot of this Bloodshot Records showcase was a bit disorganized. Some singers used lyrical cheat sheets, yet overall the effort was a success, particularly when the ladies took the mike. Dean Schlabowske of the Waco Brothers began the proceedings nicely with "Gary Gilmore's Eyes," Sally Timms and Langford backing him with pure harmonies. Washington, D.C.'s Jenny Toomey breathed dramatic life into Cole Porter's "Miss Otis Regrets," Timms following with a fine rendition of the appropriate "Long Black Veil," even though it's not on Executioner's Songs. Jo Walston, lead pipes for Austin's Meat Purveyors, sang "Hanged Man" with such panache that her short appearance was the showcase highlight. Langford interpreted Chris Ligon's witty "The Great State of Texas," and very appropriate it was, although his unrefined delivery lessened the song's punch. Save for such occasional missteps, and a surfeit of guitars (did they really need four?), it was a worthwhile showcase for a worthwhile cause, proving that politically-directed music doesn't have to be dour.