“The Cowboy Iliad reaches back to the spoken tradition of storytelling — designed to have no simple resolution, but a mix of history, nostalgia and speculation. And, of course, we wanted to honor the tradition of the Western… In other words, Bobby Woods and I had a couple of shooters and made a record.”
– Walter Hill
During the summer between junior high school and high school, a movie came to our little local theater that I simply had to see. It was titled The Long Riders and it had this cool gimmick — four sets of brothers played four sets of brothers — the James Boys, the Youngers, the Millers, and the Fords, played by James and Stacy Keach; the Carradine brothers; the Quaids; and the Guests. My parents thought it was too violent and they didn’t like the idea of “glorifying outlaws.” My mother, in particular, hated that I was so drawn to the rough and wild frontier folk. I badgered my dad relentlessly until he broke down and took me to see the R-rated flick.
It was glorious. Bloody glorious.
I was just a kid, of course, and I didn’t pay attention to things like who composed the soundtrack (the great Ry Cooder) or who directed the movie — a cat named Walter Hill. I just knew what I liked. Turns out, I generally like everything Walter Hill does, which is not too surprising, since he cops to the fact that everything he does is a Western, whether it is a genre flick or not. By the time Geronimo: An American Legend came out in 1993, I knew damn well who Walter Hill was. Ry Cooder, too. That movie was directed by Hill, with a weird and wonderful soundtrack by Cooder, and scripted by John Milius — cloverleafing in my aesthetic and historical x-ring.
So here we are in 2019. Walter Hill is 77 years old and still in the saddle. He’s come out with The Cowboy Iliad: A Legend Told In The Spoken Word. The spoken word record tells the story of a deadly shootout that occurred in Newton, Kansas in 1871 and its aftermath of violence and controversy. The record was produced by Bobby Woods and features Les Deux Love Orchestra.
The Newton General Massacre of August 19-20, 1871, was a bloody affair that left five men dead and three wounded in a cowtown saloon. It started over a political argument. See what happens? For some strange reason, though it attracted plenty of press in the day, the episode has slid into obscurity while events like the OK Corral gunfight have entire library shelves devoted to them. History is capricious.
At any rate, you know what I’ll be listening to tonight as I deliver The Nugget… Sorry Mom.