You know Cormac McCarthy’s 1985 novel Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West is solid, because it was written by a guy with the first name Cormac. It is a
gritty disturbing account of the concourse taken by a gang of scalp hunters across the Americo/Mexica borderlands. There’s a runaway Tennessean teenager born under a meteor shower, an ear-less outlaw with ‘horse thief’ tattooed on his face, an ex-priest, and a perverse judge with alopecia. They rape, pillage and burn through desert, jungle and mountainous lands. They shoot revolvers at bears and get into cantina fights, drunk on blood lust and dusty whiskey.
Basically, Blood Meridian is from the perspective of the bad guys, with minimal sympathy or redemption given to their humanity, or lack thereof. It just is, and is told as such. Cormac McCarthy writes in a way where the romance of the west exists only in his illustrious prose, rather than in event. The path’s of the characters occur rapidly, in-dispersed with quandaries of philosophy and vivid imagery.
A man’s at odds to know his mind cause his mind is aught he has to know it with.
Old hermit to the kid, Chapter 2, Page 19
Distant thunderheads reared quivering against the electric sky and were sucked away in the blackness again.
Chapter 2, Page 19.
and my personal favorite:
The sun was just down and to the west lay reefs of bloodred clouds up out of which rose little desert nighthawks like fugitives from some great fire at the earth’s end.
All the grizzliest wayfarer’s of music have written music inspired by Blood Meridian.
The Lawrence Arms – The Redness in The West
From the Buttsweat and Tears EP. On the rare occasion that these Chicago punk veterans experiment with country music, whether lyrically or structure-wise, it ends up working on every level. This is a reworked version of an earlier song called ‘Blood Meridian’, with cultural references ranging from the classic American western Half Baked to Will Ferrell’s cowbell fever. Lined up bottles of Beam from the crib to the grave. An entire LP of outlaw songs from the Larry Arms would be a beastly piece of American music.
Earth Hex: Or Printing in the Infernal Method
Is an instrumental ode to the bare bones of McCarthy’s ultra-violent country. Several song titles are directly from the pages of the book, including an Inquest Involving Teeth and Land of Some Other Order. This album is hot and slow, like a foe’s distant campfire. Earth boils country music down to the bare strings, and grazes down on vast pastures. The mood alternates between bleak to cheerful, as copper twang sways over slothful drums. Every intonation of the chord is explored, creating a highly eerie, yet suitable atmosphere for the timeless struggle between cowboys and Indians.
Ben Nichols – Last Pale Light in the West
Ben Nichols, of Tennessee world drinking champions Lucero, went solo, but only to record an album devoted to literature that distinctly moved him. Though it sounds minimalistic as most solo endeavors do, Nichols uses an array of folk instruments to layer on the framework set by his guitar. Each track meditates on a character or place from the book. Davy Brown is lighthearted to reflect on his foolish, brazen demeanor. The slide and piano are warm on Toadvine, yet sinister on The Judge, which is a murky stroll through the mind of a madman, that sounds like an accordion being tuned through a distortion pedal.The self titled track is the strongest, as it hones in on the source text’s dramatically bizarre conclusion. When Ben Nichols sings Judge Holden’s final piece of deranged wisdom, Cormac’s 327 page poem is given a whole new life.