Album review: Various Artists, True Blood: Music From the HBO Original Series (2009)


By Steve Newton

I’ve never actually seen the HBO vampire series True Blood, mainly because I’m too busy watching the cable channel’s other offerings like Entourage, Eastbound & Down, and Curb Your Enthusiasm. (Larry David fans take note: CYE’s seventh season premieres September 20.) But if True Blood is anywhere near as enjoyable as the music on this collection it’s definitely worth a look-see.

Since the bloodsucker show is set in Louisiana, and everyone knows that primal blues is the ideal soundtrack for neck-gnawing, True Blood’s music supervisors were justified in going all the way back to 1957 for “Strange Love”, a stark 12-bar boogie by Baton Rouge bluesman Slim Harpo, whose warbly vocals and simple harmonica licks must have influenced Bob Dylan.

The series’ location also gave them good reason to cherry-pick Lucinda Williams’s “Lake Charles”, the heartfelt ode to her Louisiana hometown that first appeared on the Grammy-winning Car Wheels on a Gravel Road disc of ’98. “We used to drive through Lafayette and Baton Rouge in a yellow El Camino listening to Howlin’ Wolf,” croons the country-roots diva. Who wouldn’t risk a run-in with southern vampires to experience that journey themselves?

And what would a gumbo-flavoured compilation be without an appearance by New Orleans’s Dr. John, who brings his mojo magic to the late John Martyn’s “I Don’t Wanna Know”. As the CD’s liner notes point out, lyrics like “I don’t want to know about evil, I only want to know about love” play right into the romantic mindset of the immortal night creature. Even Twilight-crazed tweens know that.

The Rolling Stones’ cautionary “Play With Fire” gets a whispered treatment by Cleveland alt-rockers Cobra Verde, while the sweet harmonies of country-folk duo the Watson Twins brings mellow beauty to the Cure’s stately pop hit of ’87, “Just Like Heaven”.

Other highlights include a couple of tracks from 2007, Th’ Legendary Shack*Shakers’ juke-joint–rockin’ “Swampblood” and former X-man John Doe’s raggedly majestic “The Golden State”, which benefits greatly from the vibrant vocals of Canadian roots-rock sweetie Kathleen Edwards.

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