True Blood: A Taste of Houston in Bon Temps
Alan Ball was known for his masterful use of music in Six Feet Under. He's lost none of his touch when it comes to his current HBO series, True Blood -- which happens to be set in the Louisiana swamps, not terribly far from Houston.
Johnny Bush, ladies and gentlemen. Even your resident goth music expert has heard of the man. Johnny Bush has been a staunch supporter of the Houston hardcore country sound, imparting his style and wisdom to people still on a regular tour schedule and with new albums. He's played with Ray Price and was the drummer for Willie Nelson. Nelson's financial backing helped him record The Sound of a Heartache in 1967, and he would go on to release a string of hit country records.
Bush's career stalled and took a turn for the worse. Much like another Texas resident, Meat Loaf, he suddenly developed severe vocal problems that robbed him of much of his range. RCA released him from his recording contract in 1974, and the honky-tonk heavyweight turned to drugs.
In 1978 he was finally diagnosed with the real problem, a rare neurological disorder called spasmodic dysphonia that causes sudden, involuntary movements in the vocal cords. By 1985 he regained much of his range, and launched a comeback the next year that has kept him working to this day.
Larry D. Moore
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Bush's song "Cold Grey Light of Dawn" was released before he developed his voice problems on his 1973 album Here Comes the World. The song was actually written by another Texas native, Kirbyville's Ivory Joe Hunter. Hunter started off as a rhythm and blues songwriter, but would eventually be a driving force in country music. Legends like Pat Boone, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis himself recorded Hunter's tunes. He died of lung cancer the year after Bush took a stab at "Cold Grey Light of Dawn" in Memphis.
What can we say about the track that isn't true of every real honky-tonk tune? As far as a bleak look at life on the other side of lost love, you can't get much better. There always seems to be a kind of resignation in good honky-tonk, and acceptance of the cruelty of life and how often we are the cause of our own misfortunes. You rarely hear a good country artist of the old school dodging responsibility.
The same just cannot be said for vampires. In this week's episode, named after Bush's version of Ivory Joe's track, Bon Temps' vampire community is in a complete lockdown. See, in this universe, the Spanish Inquisition was mostly used as an excuse for 17th-century vampires to rape and eat witches, a statement whose historical accuracy we spent 20 minutes blasting until it was pointed out that we might be taking a show about vampires a little too personally.
For our conscience, though, looking at what happened when they were burning "witches" and "werewolves" 400 years ago through some neo-pagan-colored glasses is really disrespectful to the tens of thousands who've died. We highly recommend Nigel Cawthorne's Witch Hunt or Robin Brigg's Witches and Neighbors for a historical look at the time period. Sorry, the rant ends here.
The persecution may have happened 400 years in the past, but the vengeful spirit of one of those victims has come to reside in the body of a local Bon Temps woman named Marnie. Now, she is attempting to use her necromancy to make every vampire within range of her power walk into the sun.
Vampire Bill takes this opportunity to evacuate Louisiana of vampires, and having those who remain like himself and his progeny Jessica bound in silver so that they will be unable to leave their hidey holes.
While they are chained together, Bill spends his time trying to reconcile his vampiric and human natures. To be sure, most of what is happening right now is his fault. He sent Eric after the witches as soon as he heard they were attempting necromancy. An occult arms race escalates from their leading to what is brewing into an all-out war between various other supernaturals. To his credit, he does realize this.
In a back-and-forth with Jessica he laments the evil he has done, and urges Jessica to consider forgiveness for the possessed Marnie. Answering killing with killing, he says, has led them only hear. Jessica comforts him in regards to his guilt over turning her, and for their present situation, and then proceeds to vow to eat Marnie's face.
Nobody learns anything, apparently. Just like a honky-tonk man. There's no salvation, just a recognition of sin.
Be sure to visit the Loving True Blood in Dallas blog, where Jef With One F will be a semi-regular contributor to the podcast this season.
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