Monday, May 16, 2011

Keep your eyes on the road ahead

Tig: And we blame the angry black man. 
Clarence 'Clay' Morrow: It's the American way. 

After giving up TV for weeks to get work done on an important project, I anxiously set about shutting myself in so that I could reclaim my throne (couch) and prepare the jesters (Netflix Instant Queue) for my weekend ahead of me.

I burned through a few movies I have been wanting to watch, and then set in to finally complete Season 1 of  the 2008 FX show Sons Of Anarchy.  It's a story of an outlaw motorcycle club whose criminal headquarters is in a fictional town in Northern California called Charming. Imagine Sopranos on Motorbikes.

In fact, I made that Sopranos connection after just one episode. It seemed like I was watching a rip off of one of my favorite dramas, except this time, with the theme of Hell's Angels instead of the mafia. I'm not into motorcycles, so I almost gave up on the show. I guess what I learned is that sex, drugs, and murder appeal to me, regardless the delivery method.

At the center of the show is Heath Ledger look-a-like Charlie Hunnam, who plays  Jackson "Jax" Teller. Jax is the Vice Prez of the club and heir-apparent to become president.

The season opens with the a rival gang stealing guns from the club as well as the birth of Jax's son by his junkie ex-wife (Drea de Matteo...yes...the junkie's wife in Sopranos).

The standout performance on the series is from Gemma, (Katey Segal, Married With Children) Jax's manipulative mother who is married to the current president of the club, Clay Morrow (Ron Perlman). It should be mentioned that Jax's dead father was the original founder of the club.

Jax finds his father's memoir in some old boxes, and discovers that his father had a different vision for the club. A future that compares starkly with the present day gun-smuggling and gangland crime sprees. This sets the theme of the show; Jax begins to second guess his path, and the path of the club.

These television dramas have gotten really good about selecting the most fantastic music for the soundtrack to the show. Some artists have seen huge popularity bumps as a result, and now TV Soundtracks are selling just as successfully as the series DVDs.

I've discovered two new artists as a result of SOA, as I am sure most fans of the show have. But I write this  assuming you haven't seen the show and haven't heard of the two particular artists I want to mention today.

Episode 12, "The Sleep of Babies," is bookended by a Bob Dylan song covered by Oklahoma City singer/songwriter Audra Mae. It's actually two versions of the song "Forever Young," notably a haunting a capella version at the end of the episode. Below is the version that appears at the beginning.

Click to play Audra Mae & The Forest Rangers - Forever Young (Bob Dylan cover) 

In the emotionally wrenching season finale "Revelator," the closing scenes are backed by a beautiful cover of an old song by bluesman Blind Willie Johnson. It's actually an old gospel call and response hymn, but Willie seems to be the first to record it. In the chorus, John of Patmos, the traditional author of the Book of Revelation, is writing "the book of the seven seals." At the time of the song's composition, John of Patmos was generally considered the same person as John the Apostle and John the Evangelist.

The events of this episode (which I don't wanna spoil in case you are planning on watching the series) start to make clear the revelations of his father, which Jax has only been seeing in his peripheral vision. Jax is becoming his father. Jax will write the club's new story. (That's what I am assuming will happen in Season 2...we shall see!)

Click to play Curtis Stigers & The Forest Rangers - John the Revelator (Blind Willie Johnson cover)

Curtis Stigers is from Boise, Idaho, and has a mixed musical career of Jazz as well as soul and rock. He has been making albums since 1991, and the track "This Life" is used as the intro for every Sons of Anarchy show.

The music of these two artists are all worth being picked up, and might enjoy this TV series too. I am looking forward to moving on to season 2.

Well Moses to Moses, watchin' the flock
Saw the bush where they had to stop
God told Moses, "Pull off your shoes"
Out of the flock, well you I choose


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