Monday, June 24, 2013

Theme Songs : 'Long Hard Times to Come' from 'Justified'

My latest pop culture obsession has been, without a doubt, the FX drama Justified. I'm somewhat late to the game as the show started in 2010, but as Amazon Prime is streaming the show for free, I'm almost totally caught up on the fantastic exploits of Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens and the criminal elements of Harlan County, Ky.

I could write pages about the tight story telling and the complex characters– I could write pages alone on Raylan's not-quite friend, not-quite enemy Boyd Crowder who finds Jesus after getting shot, though probably not the Jesus you or I met at Sunday School.

In many ways, starting with the unceremonious fashion in which I decided to give a few episodes a shot, I've been surprised at how this show works for me. Is it a little violent? Sure. Is it occasionally so intense that I hit "pause" and do a lap around the living room? Definitely. Does watching more than one episode at a time make it difficult to maintain my non-regional accent? Yes. In that vein, should the theme song work at all? No. But. It does. Very well, in fact.

Allow me to introduce you to Gangstagrass, a group that fuses bluegrass and rap– the group responsible for Justified's theme song "Long Hard Times to Come."

FX "Justified" Main Titles from Elastic on Vimeo.

Gangstagrass has been around since 2006, but only really saw any attention when their song got picked for the show, and then later again when they got nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music. In case you're wondering, the award went to the theme from Nurse Jackie.

I love that the first time you watch the credits, the rap is so unexpected. Decaying barns and silhouetted cowboys don't exactly scream "rap," but Justified isn't your typical Western. As such, it would be ridiculous to stick with a conventional sound to intro the show.

More importantly, the lyrics are so well-suited to Raylan, whose ex-wife describes him in the first episode as the angriest man she's ever known. Raylan's got a lot to be mad about. He's also got a certain concept of justice and morality that are finely tuned to who he is and where he's from. "The devil's hugging on my boots, that's why I own a gun," goes a long way to explain him even if it's a line not featured in the 30-second main title. Still, "On this lonely road, trying to make it home, doing it by my lonesome-pissed off, who wants some. I'm fighting for my soul," etc. rings pretty true for him in words, as well as the defiant tone of the delivery.

Anyway, check it out. Gangstagrass put out a new album in 2012 called Rappalachia, and I can't think of a better closing note than that.

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