MORTAL PROPHETS – Down On Me #newmusic #alternative #indie #electronic #shorts

The single ‘Down On Me’ from “Dealey Plaza Blues”

John Beckmann: vocals
Dylan Day: guitar – Hey Joe and Dealey Plaza Blues
Joe Filisko: harmonica – Mississippi Saxophones and I’ll Get A Break
Tommy Bohlen: steel pedal – Don’t Be Cruel
Alexander Krispin: co-producer, mix engineer, and various instruments
Jonas W. Karlsson: mastering
Henkka Niemistö Mastering, Helsinki, and Los Angeles

Release Date: July 28, 2023

As listeners, we dream of albums like this. Albums that take a well-worn, tradition-based template or two, blow them wide open then put the pieces back together in a way that isn’t just satisfying but leaves one gasping a bit at both the startling results and the daring it took to create them. It’s those records – think Horses, Contort Yourself, Marquee Moon – that we end up acknowledging as legends at birth, records that manage to confirm our preconceptions while shattering them in pretty much the same instant and Mortal Prophets’ second record Dealey Plaza Blues, construed via the incomparable talents of John Beckmann, is here to join their ranks. Like those, DPB is a fresh, exciting, even startling record because it’s like nothing you’ve heard before and because you’re deeply familiar with most of what it offers.

Of Dealey Plaza Blues’ tracks, seven are covers, and three are original but all are of such a transfixing piece it can at times be a challenge to tell one from the other. Going from the fever-dreamed audio mirage of instrumental opener “Mississippi Saxophones” that arrives like some eerie wind tripping through your headphones to the bold moody take on “Born Under A Bad Sign” that virtually glistens with despair, Beckmann’s lurking, almost disembodied baritone casting a steady if lone presence against a hallucinatory background, is to find yourself enveloped in a trance of sorts, one that doesn’t concern itself with provenance and one you won’t be quit of until album’s end. In those seven covers, “Hey Joe,” “Baby Please Don’t Go,” “Don’t Be Cruel” and “Down On Me” among them, Beckmann has taken original blues and timeless rock standards and, with the help of musicians Joe Filisko, Dylan Day, Tommy Bohlen and co-producer/musician (and seven-year Daniel Lanois protege) Alexander Krispin, reanimated them in such a persuasive way that they bring fresh fuel to one’s view of reincarnation. In a luminous way, the songs have been reborn in him, he in them. And, to be clear: this isn’t revivalism, it’s not dilettantism, it isn’t any -ism at all. Rather, a sui generis construct does that little Latin phrase proud. And anyway, upon listening, one realizes those covers aren’t really covers but something more akin to repossessions, stripped back to their essences then morphologically reconfigured for the 21st c. Heard that way it becomes difficult if not impossible to imagine them being any more alive than they are right here, right now on Dealey Plaza Blues.

This unique work is a reflection of Beckmann’s multifarious pasts, both recent and distant. From his days amidst the template-breaking cultural scrum of NYC in the early 80s that were in turn set in place by his odd kid teenage years when the record store in the nearby mall would set aside all that weird German shit for him – Can, NEU!, Cluster et al – as well as records from challenging noiseniks like Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire, Beckmann has long displayed that quality all visionary artists and composers must possess: a hunger for the new and, quite often, groundbreaking. Nurtured for decades, then, it’s no surprise that come 2021 when he’s introduced to Captain Beefheart alumnus Gary Lucas the path toward Mortal Prophets’ current sound found its guide, an influence on his process heard most clearly on the “Dealey Plaza Blues” itself, a hypnotic, dub-infused original that anchors the album like a Metal Box version of fractured Americana (an essence captured by the track’s avant-garde montage video shot by Michele Civetta and chock full of Zapruder, paranoia, grief, and conspiracy). In that context, Beckmann’s take on the not-so-new art forms here can perhaps seem at first an almost shocking development but, once heard, is better understood as something of a natural progression. From there it’s an almost inescapable conclusion that if Beckmann can do this to the blues and Otis Blackwell-penned rock’n’roll, there are really no limits to his talent.

The bottom line, however, is simply this: every track here, cover or not, is addictive to its core and there’s no escaping its spell. Throughout this record, that elusive ‘juju’ we so often speak of echoes in the shadows, so alive it could scare you half to death in the most dream-like way imaginable. Though it’s quite early yet, it’s nonetheless a pretty stark guarantee that 2023 will not see born in its midst a more memorable, inimitable record than Dealey Plaza Blues.

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