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Alive at Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary

4.4 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Audio CD, May 1, 2012
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Editorial Reviews


Until it closed in 2009, Tennessee's Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary was one of the most notorious penal institutions in America. Located in mountainous Petros, it was a forbidding rockpile hewn out of the rough countryside by its own inmates in 1896. In fiction, it housed Hannibal Lecter, the cannibalistic serial killer of Thomas Harris' The Silence of the Lambs. Its most famous inmate in real life was Martin Luther King's assassin James Earl Ray, who made national headlines when he broke out of Brushy Mountain in June 1977 and remained at large for two days before his recapture. On Oct. 17, 2001, Mark Collie came to Brushy Mountain with a sheaf of newly written songs about crime and punishment and an all-star band for a pair of performances that were recorded for a live album release. Mostly, though, Collie showed up at Brushy Mountain with a mission. God gave me the opportunity to get in there and share something that might make a difference, he says. I believed the songs could matter. I wanted to make something that people could find hope in, or redemption, or restoration, or forgiveness. By the time Collie conceived the project, the Waynesboro, Tennessee, native was already an established country star with five studio albums to his credit and the top 10 hits Even the Man in the Moon is Crying and Born to Love You under his belt. His close friendship with country icon Johnny Cash supplied the principal inspiration for his own prison recording. Collie was well aware of Cash's celebrated 1968-69 live albums recorded at California's Folsom and San Quentin penitentiaries. He also knew the impact that a 1959 performance at the latter facility had on Inmate #A-45200, better known as the legendary country star Merle Haggard. Without Johnny going to San Quentin, Collie says, there might not have been a Merle Haggard. A lot of lives were changed or made better as a result of that music. A top-flight crew of musicians was assembled, including guitarist Dave Grissom (John Mellencamp, Joe Ely), keyboardist Mike Utley (Jimmy Buffett, the Dixie Flyers), guitarist-mandolinist Tommy Burroughs (Memphis' Riverbluff Clan), Collie s longtime accordionist Hassel Tekkle, bassist Willie Weeks (the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, B.B. King), drummer Chad Cromwell (Neil Young, Mark Knopfler), and guitarist-fiddler-vocalist and solo star Shawn Camp. Austin-based critics darling Kelly Willis, who takes lead vocals on two tracks, also supplied backup vocals on several numbers; the late Texas blues giant Clarence Gatemouth Brown is the album's other special guest. Alive at Brushy Mountain embraces a breadth of American styles - country, blues, gospel, bluegrass, and rock 'n' roll. Unlike Cash's prison albums, which drew heavily on his back catalog, it largely comprises striking original material, which contemplates the convict's lot with compassion, keen detail, and sometimes boisterous humor. For Collie, Alive at Brushy Mountain serves as an example of the transformative force of music. I think that's why God gave us song -- the songs of David, the Song of Solomon, he says. It's a way for us to hear truths, and to allow that power of the song to help us, to teach us, to heal us, to restore us, and to bring us all closer together. Music saved my life. Having a guitar to play, having a way to express myself saved my life. And I know that there are a lot of guys - a lot better men than me - who made one misstep and wound up in places like Brushy Mountain. It didn't have to be that way. If I can change one life with this work, it will all have been worth it. --Chris Morris

It's some hard-edged, gritty country music that will stick with you, wrote noted --Chet Flippo

It's some hard-edged, gritty country music that will stick with you, wrote noted --Chet Flippo

It's some hard-edged, gritty country music that will stick with --Chet Flippo

It's some hard-edged, gritty country music that will stick with you, wrote noted --Chet Flippo

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. One More Second Chance
  2. Could've Gone Right
  3. Maybe Mexico
  4. Heaven Bound (feat. Kelly Willis)
  5. Got a Feelin' for Ya (feat. Kelly Willis)
  6. On the Day I Die
  7. Dead Man Runs Before He Walks (feat. Shawn Camp)
  8. Rose Covered Garden
  9. Why Me Lord (feat. Kelly Willis)
  10. Do As I Say
  11. Someday My Luck Will Change (feat. Clarence Gatemouth Brown)
  12. Folsom Prison Blues
  13. Reckless Companions
  14. Gospel Train (feat. Brushy Mountain Prison Choir)

Product details

  • Audio CD (May 1, 2012)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Wilbanks Entertainment
  • ASIN: B007VHOI8A
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #309,733 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
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March 18, 2013
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