Ben Nichols, frontman for the Texas country/punk band Lucero, released a solo acoustic album The Last Pale Light in the West in 2009. It is an incredible work.
It’s a short album of 7 songs based on Cormac McCarthy’s novel Blood Meridian. Each song follows a particular character from the book. The last song “The Judge” is an instrumental.
I have reviewed Blood Meridian at The Western Online and consider it one of the Great American Novels. The album by Nichols, with its dark, emotionally-layered acoustic music and pain-filled, stark and evocative lyrics, is a perfect companion piece to the book.
Like the book the album is composed of a strong narrative sense, emotional desolation, and dark imagery painted with nightmarish strokes. Juxtaposed with this is the fundamental question: What does it mean to be human?
The album is short by modern standards but I think Ben Nichols uses every second of time to paint a portrait of perfect desolation and terrifying beauty.
From the title song:
In my hands I hold the ashes
In my veins black pitch runs
In my chest the fire catches
In my way a setting sun
Dark clouds gather round me
To the West my soul is bound
But I will go on ahead free
There is a light yet to be found
The last pale light in the west
The lyrics have a strong ethereal quality when sung by Nichols’s harsh voice. This is a superb album by any standard. As a work of art inspired by Blood Meridian it rises to a higher synergistic plane. I definitely recommend this album.