When not telling the story of The Hobbit on Middle Earth, film producers Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh are hoping this winter to bring a different, real-life story to light. West of Memphis is their new documentary film directed by Amy Berg (Best Documentary Oscar nominee Deliver Us from Evil), so named for the Arkansas city of West Memphis in which three eight-year old boys were tragically killed in 1993. The film chronicles the battle to prove the innocence of the three young men convicted for the heinous crime, each of whom spent over eighteen years in prison while supporters collected the evidence that eventually led to their freedom. On January 15, Legacy Recordings will release West of Memphis: Voices for Justice, a tie-in album to the documentary featuring contributions from Bob Dylan, Patti Smith, Marilyn Manson, Eddie Vedder, Johnny Depp and others.
Damien Echols (a producer of the film), Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley were all teenagers when they became the target of the police’s investigation. Members of the music community including Henry Rollins, Natalie Maines, Dave Navarro, Manson and Vedder all became vocal in supporting Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley’s pleas for justice to be served. In the press release for Legacy’s new release in support of the West Memphis Three, Echols stated, “Music has always played a huge role in my life. In my early years, it allowed me to escape the crushing poverty I was born into. Music took me out of myself and into a thousand other worlds. Then, when I was put on trial, it was music they used against me. My love of heavy metal was considered ‘proof’ that I was evil and a satanic murderer. And then, ultimately, it was music that helped to free me when friends and supporters came together to put on the Voices for Justice concert in Little Rock.”
After the jump: more including the complete track listing and pre-order link!
An original score for the film was written and performed for the film by the Australian team of Nick Cave and Warren Ellis (The Dirty Three, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds), and a suite of their music is included on the Legacy disc. The work underscores Henry Rollins’ “Damien Death Row Letter (Year 9)” in which Rollins reads a letter written by Damien Echols in 2003. Rollins also spearheaded the 2002 album Rise Above: 24 Black Flag Songs to Benefit the West Memphis Three.
The new album also includes freshly-recorded songs and tracks donated from artists’ back catalogues. In the former category comes Dixie Chick Natalie Maines’ rendition of Pink Floyd’s “Mother,” produced by Ben Harper, who also contributes lap steel to the track. Lucinda Williams also newly recorded her 2006 song “Joy” for the soundtrack. Camp Freddy, led by Dave Navarro of Jane’s Addiction, newly covered David Bowie’s “The Jean Genie” as tribute to Echols, who identified Bowie as one of his favorite artists to listen to while on Death Row. Johnny Depp appears on three tracks. He joins Tonto’s Giant Nuts for Mumford and Sons’ “Little Lion Man,” and can also be heard on Marilyn Manson’s interpretation of Carly Simon’s classic “You’re So Vain.” In 2010, shock-rocker Manson stated, “…I wish that I had the strength that this guy (Damien Echols) had, because he’s gone to trial and gone to prison for just looking and thinking the things he did, and that’s pretty much what all of us as a music community believe in and what we need to finally get behind. So I’m standing up today to say let’s all get behind the West Memphis Three and fix it.” Depp returns to read another Damien Echols letter, set to the Cave/Ellis score.
Eddie Vedder wrote the song “Satellite” for producer Lorri Davis as a gift in a collection of songs he recorded for Lorri and Damien around 2000. Director Amy Berg utilized Vedder’s track for the final scene in the film. Poet, author, songwriter and singer Patti Smith performed at the Voices for Freedom benefit concert in West Memphis, Arkansas in August 2010, and her recording from that evening of “Wing” has also been included here. Bob Dylan contributed “Ring Them Bells” from his 1989 album Oh, Mercy to the soundtrack. For the film’s end titles, Bill Carter and his wife, Ruth Carter, wrote “Anything Made of Paper.” Its title is derived from Echols’ answer to a question by Carter. When Carter asked Echols what he could bring to him on Death Row, the prisoner answered, “anything made of paper, that’s all.” Carter will also be heard on the digital-only bonus track “Road to Nowhere.” The Ozzy Osbourne original was another favorite of Echols’ during his imprisonment.
The Sony Pictures Classics release West of Memphis opens in Los Angeles and New York on Christmas Day. The companion album, produced by the film’s music supervisor Jonathan McHugh, arrives in stores on January 15 and can be ordered at the link below!
Various Artists, West of Memphis: Voices for Justice (Legacy Recordings, 2013)
- Henry Rollins (feat. Nick Cave & Warren Ellis original score) – Damien Echols Death Row Letter Year 9
- Natalie Maines – Mother
- Lucinda Williams – Joy
- Camp Freddy – The Jean Genie
- Tonto’s Giant Nuts feat. Johnny Depp & Bruce Witkin – Little Lion Man
- Marilyn Manson – You’re So Vain
- Band of Horses – Dumpster World (Live)
- Citizen Cope – DFW
- Eddie Vedder – Satellite
- Bill Carter – Anything Made of Paper
- The White Buffalo – House of Pain
- Bob Dylan – Ring Them Bells
- Nick Cave & Warren Ellis – West of Memphis Score Suite
- Tonto’s Giant Nuts feat. Johnny Depp (feat. Nick Cave & Warren Ellis original score) – Damien Echols Death Row Letter Year 16
- Patti Smith – Wing (Recorded Live at Voices For Justice Benefit Concert – August 28, 2010) (Bonus Track)
- Bill Carter – Road to Nowhere (Digital Only Bonus Track)