Tragic Songs From the Grassy Knoll: John F. Kennedy 50th Anniversary Collection
Norton Records specializes in unearthing all manner of unsung American geniuses, cranks, and crackpots. Fitting, then, that the crafty Brooklyn label memorializes the half-century anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination with these 16 obscure, country tribute tunes, most of them released on tiny regional labels in the wake of JFK's death. It's all fairly conventional, although that can hardly be said of such grandly unhinged efforts as Bill Kushner's "J.F.K. and That Terrible Day" and Honorable Bob Peters' "A Sunny Day in Dallas, Pt. 1." Yet the cumulative effect of these uniformly sincere and heartfelt tunes is powerful, capturing the period's pervasive atmosphere of national shock and mourning. Ringers Hasil Adkins and Homer Henderson, whose Eighties anthem "Lee Harvey Was A Friend of Mine" closes the set, add some relative star power. While the absence of annotation or recording info is frustrating, Tragic Songs From the Grassy Knoll offers a genuinely moving listen, channeling a deep sense of loss that's all the more affecting for its often-awkward expression.