The epic saga of two Kentucky hillbillies in the wicked heart of the American South.
Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor might or might not embrace this backwoods odyssey, but proper Kentuckians Hunter S. Thompson and Johnny Depp would be cackling to beat the devil over this brazen tribute to folklore, tradition, and hillbilly rituals. It’s certainly true that Wilkes (Barn Dances & Jamborees Across Kentucky, 2013) knows this territory, integrating similar imagery into his day job as lead singer of rockabilly band The Legendary Shack Shakers. Here, our unnamed protagonist sets out to discover a storied home where an elderly couple is said to have been eaten by an invasive species of vine. As with any proper voyage, he hopes to win glory and earn back his love, Delilah Vessels, stolen away by cad Stoney Kingston. Playing Sancho Panza to his Don Quixote is Carver Canute: “He’s a cocky Elvis-haired hell-raiser who keeps his pompadour aloft with pork drippin’s, sweat, and a wafting circle of lies.” Armed with supplies and a harmonica from Cracker Barrel, our heroes head up The Old Spur Line, a dark path leading into the woods, where strange encounters await. What’s fascinating is how Wilkes taps into ancient archetypes to transform everyday characters into phantasmagoric figures by wrapping them in Southern euphemisms, counterintuitive contexts, and florid language more at home in a pulpit. Strange noises in the woods could be from a tectonic crack or a “Hell Hole” that serves as a portal to the damned. A moody group of role-players becomes a vampire cult that roams the woods looking for victims. For the narrator, God is simply “the only daddy I know.” For anyone who grew up in the South, it’s an epic of Wagnerian proportions.
Like Nick Cave’s The Death of Bunny Munro or Steve Earle’s I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive, Wilkes' debut is a rich and heartfelt yarn that resonates as deeply as his music.