Pam Taylor’s Haunting Cover of “House of The Rising Sun” For Film Score Is an Artistic Revelation
My parents’ house was full of music growing up. I remember many a dreary late Autumn afternoon spent cooped up inside our Western Pennsylvania home because of the weather. Often these days shone brightly inside despite the conditions outside due to the seemingly never-ending stack of vinyl LPs that played over and over on the floor model stereo in the front room of our house. Feel good music like early albums by The Beatles or The Dave Clark Five were in heavy rotation. Some equally great sounding, but maybe not quite as feel good, artists and albums like The Doors’ debut, and a collection of the greatest hits by The Animals also were spun over and over. It was during the playing of the later that I discovered a song that would haunt me for the rest of my childhood. It was The Animals’ cover of the blues classic “The House of The Rising Sun.” I’d often stop reading whatever comic book I had in front of me at the time and listen carefully to the lyrics and repeated lead guitar riff. I was stirred by the image of the song’s protagonist, a kid perhaps not much older than I was at the time, doomed to live a life of “sin and misery” in the mythical House of The Rising Sun. The song carried a weight and a warning that, as I grew up, lost its dark luster and faded into the background. I’d cue up the song from time to time over the years and listen to it. I’d still enjoy Eric Burdon’s loud, angst-ridden vocal delivery and the haunting guitar riff that ran over and over like a metaphorically unbreakable ball and chain polished by the haunted sounds of the accompanying organ. It wasn’t frightening or sublime anymore though. Just a great song and a great cover.
When I saw that local (to me) blues artist Pam Taylor had recorded a cover of it as part of the score to the local award-winning independent film, Fate Alchemy, I was, of course, anxious to hear it. I was intrigued. Pam’s signature sound often skews more towards the aforementioned “feel good” spectrum of blues-rock. Pam doesn’t indulge much in melancholy or angst, and I expected a unique, perhaps even spritely, update. Instead, I found something much better: a unique, instrumentally understated, and sublimely moving rendition of the song that restored the faded dark luster that made The Animals’ version so powerful all those years ago. Here though, Pam infused the song with an even darker slant through a very different, yet just as powerfully emotional, vocal delivery.
Backed only by a dark and atmospheric industrial drone, Pam sings at a slow, poised and composed, yet almost tremulous, pace. She has never sounded this vulnerable, world-weary, yet somehow spiritually strong before…in this particular way. Her voice here is a revelation, and it’s not that it is a powerful one-we already know this from her previous recordings-but that it is one capable of such resonance. Her delivery, and indeed her voice itself, teeters on the brink of the abyss, yet never falls over. In fact, the faintly audible spark of life, that usually blazes brightly in nearly all of her recordings-and is a major part of her appeal is allowed to only flicker here and there throughout “House of The Rising Sun.” I suspect she only allows it to do so in order to save the listener from falling into an emotional black hole. This is a very different Pam Taylor from what we’ve heard before. Pam has tapped into and talentedly displayed, a new depth and dimension to her singing. While I don’t advocate her going off and recording an album of gothic downers, she definitely has new places to explore and take us as listeners in her upcoming songwriting efforts. This new dimension to Pam’s repertoire will undoubtedly lead to new depths of sound and delivery. That I will be looking forward to hearing on whatever Pam records for us next.