BY ELENA FALSINI
The West Memphis Three are the three men that were tried and convicted as teenagers, accused of the 1993 murders of three boys in West Memphis, Arkansas. However they were wrongly accused. Damien Echols was even sentenced to death, the men spent more than 18 years in prison and are still trying to recover and achieve full exoneration. West of Memphis: Voice For Justice is an album compilation created with the assistance of various artists who were touched by the story of the three, back then, teenagers and now adult men. Disapproving of and shocked at the cruelties of the criminal justice system, these stars came together to create West of Memphis: Voices For Justice as an effort to spread awareness.
Asking for your mother to tell you what is wrong or right is the ultimate cry for help. The first song track “Mother,” shows us how uncertainty can creep up behind a person when he is put in a certain situation. The song starts of soft, with strings of melodious chords on a guitar and keeps rising into stronger and higher territories musically. Dixie Chicks’ vocalist Natalie Maines’ rendition of “Mother,” originally Pink Floyd’s song, is sung with a powerful but lingering voice, which resonates as she asks the fundamental question of “Mother should I trust the government?” Although melancholic, the song is hopeful, because it reminds us that faith, hope and the ties that we create with other people can help us to survive. Just as what this album has accomplished for the West Memphis Three.
Lucinda Williams’ “Joy” counterbalances the first track off of the album by claiming that “you took my joy, I want it back.” This track is more forceful and confident, and reflects the determination that these artists possess, which will allow them to make sure that justice is served. “Joy” will become a popular one among the fans. With an aching and yearning blues-like nature, it was re-recorded especially for the soundtrack, but still remains a rocking track.
Dave Navarro’s Camp Freddy took David Bowie’s “The Jean Genie,” and put its own twist on it. “Little Lion Man” created with the efforts of Tonto’s Giant Nuts, Johnny Depp and Bruce Witkins, stands out on the album thanks to it’s rhythmic beat and significant lyrics. Meanwhile, Marilyn Manson completely transformed Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain,” with the help of Johnny Depp on guitar. Band Of Horses’ “Dumpster World” is a potent live track that becomes only more energetic halfway through the song.
The recurring melody of Eddie Vedder’s acoustic “Satellite” creeps up on us and leaves us with a little bit of hope. While Bob Dylan’s “Ring Them Bells,” a call for freedom, from his 26th studio album Oh Mercy, is just as touching. Patti Smith’s live, soulful rendition of “Wing” is taken directly from the benefit concert in Arkansas, which became the decisive moment that lead to the release the West Memphis Three.
“I’m getting scared Henry. I can’t tell anyone else that; because everyone here, wants me to be fearless, to have no doubts”, writes Damien in his death row letter from his ninth year in prison. No person should ever feel that they have to put up a front when in reality, deep inside, they are slowly slipping away.
West of Memphis: Voices for Justice will stir you, transport you, and slap you hard across the face; because all of us have felt at some point in our lives that we have been treated unfairly, deceived, and left behind. The album demonstrates the power of music and how important its existence is for humanity. And isn’t it just wonderful how things so pure and truthful can emerge from experiences that are so abysmal and dark instead? The contradictions of life are what makes it the more fascinating. But what is for certain, is that music, has saved many in the hardest and darkest moments of their lives. West Of Memphis: Voices For Justice; it is music like this that needs to be made more often.