Alan Ball was known for his masterful use of music in
Six Feet Under. He's lost none of his touch when it comes to his current HBO series, True Blood - which happens to be set in the Louisiana swamps, not terribly far from Houston. Though we're picking up midway through Season 2, from here on out as each new episode airs, Rocks Off will bring you a short report on the featured music.
Episode 2.10, "New World in My View"
One of the reasons Rocks Off began this column was to help bring to the limelight some of the lesser-known artists that Alan Ball has been known to feature on True Blood
. That well's been a little dry the last two episodes, those being centered around comparatively mainstream artists like Lyle Lovett and Beck. Maybe it's because those episodes have been concerned with civilized soul-searching, mercy and regret. Now the episodes are focused on the town on Bon Temps as the setting for the mother of all mad bacchanals featuring attractions like meat altars, oral sex plus what we believe is cheese whiz, and human sacrifice. Fitting, then, that a religious wingnut should serenade us.
There once was a lady from Lafayette, Ala., named Gertrude Morgan. Born in 1900, she lived a fairly regular life until age 38, when God told her that she should take up being a street evangelist. Upon hearing the news, she left her husband and family, headed to New Orleans, and opened a couple of orphanages and missionaries. God continued to advise Morgan for the rest of her life.
In 1956, God told her that she should start painting, and the next year that she was a Bride of Christ. Afterwards, she would call herself Sister Gertrude Morgan and dedicate her life to spreading the word of God through music and painting. Her paintings were mostly used a visual aids for her sermons, and were renowned for their colorful imagery.
Morgan preached through a paper megaphone she had painted with icons herself, and her favorite subjects were the Book of Revelation and the image of her and Jesus flying in an airplane. That last one was accompanied by a poem titled "Jesus Is My Air Plane." She painted like Axl Rose wrote lyrics - on whatever was handy; her mediums included Styrofoam containers, window shades, and toilet paper rolls.
Her painting overshadowed her a cappella album Let's Make a Record
, which featured just her and a tambourine and was recorded in 1970, until the year 2005. That's when Philadelphia DJ King Britt released an album of her recordings set to modern beats and instrumentation on the Ropeadope label entitled King Britt Presents: Sister Gertrude Morgan
That year, Morgan's art was collected for a show at the New Orleans Museum of Art, further returning her to the spotlight. Now, both King Britt's reinterpretation and the original works have been released and can easily be found on iTunes
This week's episode was named for Morgan's song "I Got the New World in my View." What does it have to do with the current goings-on in the Sookie Stackhouse universe? Not much, actually, but it does serve as a nice bit of interest music for a character that has been heavily anticipated by fans of the show. As previously mentioned, Sookie's hometown is currently being set up for a bacchanal. A real one thrown by a real Maenad. The kind of party that got Orpheus chopped into convenient, fun-size pieces when everyone had just a wee bit to drink.
We get a taste of the song as Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) leaves to enlist the aid of the vampire queen of Louisiana in defeating the Maenad. While this mesmerizing bit of backwoods gospel haunts his steps, we're treated to a tour of perfect modern opulence in the form of her castle, guarded by Men in Black, a sudden shock from the dirty reveler streets we just left.
Entering her presence, the camera shoots from just behind her throne, focusing on Bill small in the distance, and the naked leg and foot of the vampire queen draped carelessly over the arm of her throne, blood running down her leg to drip on the floor. Next episode, we'll see her in action - played by Marilyn Manson's current squeeze Evan Rachel Wood. See you there.