Recently, NYC experimental rock outfit The MortalProphets (helmed by John Beckmann) announced the forthcoming release of their sophomore LP, Dealey Plaza Blues, kicked off with the record's first two singles, title track "Dealey Plaza Blues" (with an accompanying video directed by Michele Civetta) and "Born Under a Bad Sign." Today, the band returns with the record’s third single release, "Down on Me."
"'Down On Me' is a traditional freedom song from the 1920s or earlier that became popular following its remake by Janis Joplin and Big Brother and the Holding Company. But the version I first heard was a very early recording by Eddie Head and His Family (1930), on the John Fahey compilation called American Primitive Vol 1: Raw Pre-war Gospel (Revenant 206). My version reimagines the song and turns it into an over-the-top electro-blues stomper."
Last year, The MortalProphets shared their debut LP, Me and the Devil, on which Beckmann joined forces with Irish musician and producer William Declan Lucey (Rubyhorse, Leftbank) to develop the record’s atmospheric, noisy sound. Additionally, it features collaborations with Morphine’s Dana Colley, vocalist Aoibheann Carey-Philpott, and more. Previously, The MortalProphets dropped an EP entitled Stomp the Devil, produced by David Sisko and featuring collaborations with Gary Lucas of Captain Beefheart.
Beckmann’s work is reflective of his multifarious pasts, both recent and distant. From his days amidst the template-breaking cultural scrum of NYC in the early 80s that were in turn set in place by his odd kid teenage years when the record store in the nearby mall would set aside all that weird German shit for him - Can, NEU!, Cluster et al - as well as records from challenging noiseniks like Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire, Beckmann has long displayed that quality all visionary artists and composers must possess: a hunger for the new and, quite often, groundbreaking. Nurtured for decades, then, it’s no surprise that come 2021 when he’s introduced to Captain Beefheart alumnus Gary Lucas the path toward MortalProphets’ current sound found its guide, an influence on his process heard most clearly on the “Dealey Plaza Blues” itself, a hypnotic, dub-infused original that anchors the album like a Metal Box version of fractured Americana (an essence captured by the track’s avant-montage video shot by Michele Civetta and chock full of Zapruder, paranoia, grief, and conspiracy). In that context, Beckmann’s take on the not-so-new art forms here can perhaps seem an almost shocking development at first but, once heard, is better understood as something of a natural progression. From there it’s an almost inescapable conclusion that if Beckmann can do this to the blues and Otis Blackwell-penned rock’n’roll, there are really no limits to his talent.