Ghost Brothers of Darkland County

Stephen King, John Mellencamp and T Bone Burnett have teamed up to create a souther gothic, supernatural musical called the Ghost Brothers of Darkland County. The story revolves around two feuding brothers, a father with a tragic secret, feuding ghosts, and of course, the devil. The synopsis which appeared in the original Playbill reads:

In the tiny town of Lake Belle Reve, Mississippi in 1967, a terrible tragedy took the lives of two brothers and a beautiful young girl. During the next forty years, the events of that night became the stuff of local legend. But legend is often just another word for lie. Joe McCandless knows what really happened; he saw it all. The question is whether or not he can bring himself to tell the truth in time to save his own troubled sons, and whether the ghosts left behind by an act of violence will help him – or tear the McCandless family apart forever.

The musical premiered in April 2012 at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta to mixed reviews, but it has continued to evolve and is scheduled for a 20-city tour this fall. To help create awareness (and fans), a concept album (performed by an array of celebrity artists instead of the original cast) was released last month is a variety of formats and editions including a Deluxe Hardcover with the full libretto, 2 CDs (one includes excerpts of key dialogue), and a making of DVD. (It's also available as digital book for iPad!)

Although I wasn't expecting to like this, I loved the mix of honky tonk, blues, and folk rock music with a very down-home and accessible Americana feel that isn't the typical shrill musical fare. It has its imaginative moments but feels grounded, honest, and never frilly. The devil's main song "That's Me" (sung by Elvis Costello), "That's Who I Am" (sung by Neko Case), "Home Again" (sung by Sheryl Crow), "You Don't Know Me" (sung by Roseanne Cash) are particular standouts. I also found it rather touching. Having three brothers, our strong, competitive personalities didn't always gel, and this musical taps into that very dynamic of brotherly love and what it means to be family – like it or not.

I'll look forward to seeing a stage production if the tour heads west, but for now, readers in Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, and Illinois are the lucky ones (click here for dates and locations).