Welcome to the third part of the Western With A Twist blog series, music! (Part 1 is books, Part 2 is movies and TV.) As we're gearing up for the launch of the Daughter of the Wildings series with Beneath the Canyons, enjoy some music that's western in spirit, style, or both, but with a twist.
Now, I'm not a country listener, but for the most part these aren't country songs. Rather, they have a sound reminscent of the west, spaghetti westerns, wide open spaces, an attitude of independence and individuality.
To keep the post from being too long, I'm only posting YouTube videos for a few of the songs, and including links to the rest; there's also a Spotify playlist of the music down at the bottom. I've also put Amazon buy links for as many of these selections as I could find them for (not my affiliate links; that would have been too much work!) Enjoy!
The song that immediately comes to mind when talking about westerns and fantasy or supernatural themes is Ghost Riders in the Sky. This has been covered about a zillion times; here are three of them:
Johnny Cash, traditional country (Amazon)
Outlaws, country rock (Amazon)
and this retro instrumental version from the 60's, by the Ramrods (with fan-made video): (Amazon)
The other "real" country song on this list is Ring of Fire. Of course, the original Johnny Cash version is classic (Amazon), but personally I prefer the cover by Social Distortion (Amazon):
The album Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, by My Chemical Romance (one of the greatest rock albums ever made, if you ask me), makes up the bulk of the Daughter of the Wildings playlist. Set in a post-apocalyptic California, it's an in-your-face statement of individuality and independence. The whole album is excellent, but for the Western With A Twist theme I picked out Bulletproof Heart and Save Yourself, I'll Hold Them Back as being the most western in spirit. (Amazon)
The entire album The Joshua Tree by U2 (another one of the greatest rock albums ever made, IMNSHO) also celebrates the wide-open feel of the west, especially the songs Where the Streets Have No Name and In God's Country. (Amazon)
I picked two songs from the album Communique by Dire Straits for this list. Once Upon A Time In The West doesn't have a whole lot to do with the Old West, as far as I can tell, but it has a real spaghetti-western feel to the music, especially in Mark Knopfler's guitar playing. Angel of Mercy is a sweet and sexy country-flavored song that would be great to dance to. (Plus the lyrics mention catching a dragon; I know it's metaphorical, but still, dragons :D) (Amazon)
Peacemaker, by Green Day (Amazon), also has that spaghetti western feel, as does Kiseki no Umi, the theme song from the fantasy anime Record of Lodoss War. The show is about elves and the typical pseudo-European fantasy, but the beautiful theme song (by Yoko Kanno, the brilliant composer who also wrote the music for Cowboy Bebop and the theme songs for Ghost in the Shell) has a wide-open western sound.
Finally, probably the greatest Western With A Twist song of all time, and one of the greatest music videos of all time, the futuristic spaghetti western Knights of Cydonia, by Muse: (Amazon)
Stay tuned for Beneath the Canyons release news!
Welcome to part 2 of the Western With A Twist Blog series, setting the mood for the upcoming release of Beneath the Canyons, Book 1 of my high fantasy-western series Daughter of the Wildings. This time: movies and TV. (Part 1, Books, is here)
[Note: Amazon links are my affiliate links.]
First of all, if you're talking about TV and movies that are sci-fi or fantasy with a western twist, or western with a sci-fi/fantasy twist, you have to include Firefly on the list. I don't know how much I need to say about it, except adventures in space with a wild west feel - guns, fortune-hunters, independent-spirited people trying to make a new start in wide-open territory not necessarily on the right side of the law. I haven't seen the entire series yet, but what I've seen I loved. And, of course, there's the companion movie, Serenity. [Amazon]
Possibly the next most obvious entry is the old TV show, The Wild Wild West. Basically James Bond in the old west (the main character is Jim West; get it?), with lots of cool gadgetry, it also has elements of science fiction and alternate history, and is sometimes considered a forerunner of steampunk. I don't remember watching it as a kid, although I do remember the little animations between segments, but there are some episodes on YouTube so I've been watching those lately. Lots of fun. There was also a 1999 movie version which gets pretty bad ratings, which is too bad because with Will Smith and Kevin Kline you'd think it would be good. [Amazon]
Next up is one of my favorite movies, High Plains Drifter, with Clint Eastwood. Spaghetti western about a Man With No Name who comes into a desolate western town, uncovers its dirty secrets, and punishes it for a long-ago crime. Is he just a wandering Stranger, or is he something more? (The link goes to Rotten Tomatoes because the Wikipedia article was written by someone with a definite bias against the movie. :P) [Amazon]
Finally, while we're on the subject of movies, we can't forget Cowboys and Aliens, which I haven't seen but I love the idea. Critical reaction seems to be mixed; some reviewers love it, others just don't seem to get it. [Amazon]
Next up are two of my favorite anime series. Cowboy Bebop is set in space in the near future, after Earth has been made mostly uninhabitable by a natural cataclysm and mankind has moved to Mars. Lawlessness and corruption are rampant, providing plenty of work for bounty-hunting "cowboys" like the crew of the Bebop: Spike, wisecracking gunslinger/martial artist and refugee from the criminal Syndicate; Jet, tough but tender-hearted owner of the Bebop; sexy Faye, a woman without a past; Ed, the 13-year-old hacker girl, and Ein, the super-intelligent Welsh Corgi. Science fiction/space opera with a definite Wild West feel, an awesome jazz soundtrack, and the famous tag line, "See you, space cowboy." [Amazon]
Trigun is also set in space, on a desert planet where spaceships evacuating humans from a ruined Earth crash-landed. With the destruction of the ships, technology has, for the most part, gone back to the level of the late 19th/early 20th century (with a few things salvaged from the ruined ships and, of course, the Plants that provide the planet with power and water). The society is wild and lawless, and the most wild and lawless of them all is Vash the Stampede, the Humanoid Typhoon, the outlaw gunslinger with a $$60,000,000,000 bounty on his head. Vash believes in Love and Peace, but a darker destiny hounds him across the planet. Along the way, he meets up with a series of renegades, bandits, bounty hunters, and desperados, an intinerant priest who's more than he appears to be, asssorted lovely ladies, and two "insurance girls", investigators assigned to make sure he doesn't prove to be the ruination of the insurance company. [Amazon]
I like to think that Silas Vendine, the hero of Daughter of the Wildings, has a little bit of Spike and Vash in him :)
Cowboy Bebop has bounty hunters, and Trigun has a character with an enormous bounty on his head, and the two come together in possibly the greatest anime music video ever made, Tainted Donuts. To finish off this post, sit back and enjoy some animated Wild West in Space action!
To set the mood for the release of Beneath the Canyons, Book 1 of Daughter of the Wildings, a high fantasy series set in a world inspired by the wild west, I'm going to take a three-part look at books, movies/TV shows, and music that puts a twist on the traditional western. The mythos of the Old West - the wide-open, lawless frontier, the desolate and mystical landscapes, the confrontation between good and evil, self-reliance, individual freedom and responsibility, the struggle to survive, and characters who are trying to make a new start in life, or find justice, revenge, redemption, or just a ton of riches, have made for a rich body of exciting stories, and easily lend themselves to other genres. For the "Western With A Twist" series I'll mainly be looking at western mixed with fantasy, paranormal, and science fiction, which also share a lot of the same traits - new frontiers, confrontations between good and evil, the struggle to survive, characters torn away from their origins who are on a quest. But I'll also throw in a few other things as well, to offer up a wide variety of western-themed entertainment to satisfy all tastes! (Note: Amazon links go to all international sites, and use my affiliate link. Image and title links go to Goodreads.)
First up, books.
I've had a hard time finding Western-themed works that fit my definition of "high fantasy" (and the definition I'm using for Daughter of the Wildings): fantasy set in an entirely different world from our Earth, with no reference to the real world, involving magic as an important plot element and a struggle between good and evil. But there are a few that come close, and there's plenty of other stories that fit into the Western With A Twist theme out there; "Weird Western" is a big trend, as is western paranormal romance (my own definition of paranormal is set in our world and dealing with things like ghosts, demons, vampires, etc), western steampunk, western alternate history, and western science fiction. Here's a rundown of some books and a web comic I've found that fit the bill of Western With A Twist.
The Dark Tower series by Stephen King: When talking about western-fantasy, this is the first thing most people think of. I agree, with qualifications. The first book, The Gunslinger, is very much fantasy in feel, and focuses on the western-like world of Roland Deschain. Book 4, Wizard and Glass, which I'm stuck halfway through, is also pretty straightforward western-fantasy. I'm having a hard time finishing it, partly because I know it can only end in tears (I'm all about happy endings) and because the 14-year-old kid having lots of sex kinda puts me off. I'm told Book 5, Wolves of Calla, is more fantasy-western, as well. Books 2 and 3 (which I've read) take on more paranormal and science fiction elements, and spend a significant amount of time in the modern world. Book 2 was good, though not at all western, and more paranormal than straight-up fantasy. The last two books, according to the information I've seen, mainly take place in the real world, and from the descriptions and reviews I've read, the series seems to go weirdly off the rails and this point (Stephen King is a character in at least one of them) and the ending sounds like something that would incite me to heave the book (or my Kindle, as the case may be) against the wall. King's books that I've read tend to have that effect on me, which may be why I haven't read very many. But if you want fantasy-western, The Gunslinger is worth reading. [Amazon]
The Haunted Mesa, by Louis L'Amour: By one of the grand masters of classic western novels, this book explores what might have become of the lost Anasazi people of the southwest. I consider it paranormal rather than high fantasy, since it's set in our world and deals with things like ghosts and alternate dimensions, but I read it many years ago seem to remember enjoying it a lot, so it belongs on this list as another personal recommendation. [Amazon]
The Alloy of Law, by Brandon Sanderson. Set in the same world as Sanderson's Mistborn series but in a later time period reminiscent of the late 19th century. High fantasy, and definitely with a western-type feel and setting, and has definite steampunk elements. I've enjoyed all of Sanderson's work I've read so far, including this. Personally recommended. [Amazon]
The Buck Johnson: Dragon Wrangler series by Wyatt McLaren: Cowboys, wrangling dragons. On a distant planet. What's not to love? Short, funny, entertaining fiction that's a perfect blend of western and science fiction (the dragons are actually large flying lizards native to the distant planet). Personally recommended. [Amazon]
The Hunter (The Legend Chronicles, #1) by Theresa Meyers: This was suggested in a thread on Goodreads looked for fantasy-western recommendations. Mainly paranormal romance set in a steampunk version of the real world 1880's old west. Colt hunts for demons and other evil creatures; Lilly is a succubus he summons to help him on a search. She's ordered to take his soul; she has her own plans. I'm currently reading this one, and so far it's lots of fun. [Amazon]
The Native Star, by M.K. Hobson: Also recommended on that Goodreads thread. I haven't read it yet, but it's on my too-read list. Also paranormal rather than high fantasy. [Amazon]
Not fantasy or science fiction, but also western with an enjoyable twist:
The Mick and Casey stories (Have Gun, Will Play; A Fist Full of Divas; The Curse of Scattershale Gulch, and two stories in the Waiter, There's a Clue In My Soup! collection), by Camille LaGuire. Young married gunslingers Mick and Casey McKee solve mysteries in the old west. Mick and Casey are great characters, the old west settings are beautifully conveyed. If you enjoy putting together the pieces of a mystery in a different setting, try these. Personally recommended. [Amazon]
Bailin', by Linton Robinson. Crime caper set along the modern-day Texas-Mexico border, but with a very old-west feel to it. So funny it had me laughing in the dentist chair while I was waiting for the hygienist to come in and get to work. It has gunslingers, bounty hunters, a desperado in the person of a town treasurer who makes off with the stadium fund, and modern-day banditos (the two-man motorcycle gang Flathead and Bogart, the world's most inept drug smugglers). Also personally recommended. [Amazon]
Not a novel but a web comic/graphic novel:
Next Town Over, by Erin Mehlos. Follow the mysterious Vane Black as she pursues rogue sorcerer John Henry Hunter across a fictional world based on the Old West. Western high fantasy with a good dose of steampunk, an intriguing story, and really cool art. Personally recommended. Read for free or buy collected volumes for your tablet or in paper at http://www.nexttownover.net/. (I read them on my Kindle Fire.)
Finally, check out Raymond Cook. Straightforward westerns (not with a twist) based on the historic Old West. I've met the author online and he's a genuinely nice guy and has an inspiring story of following his dreams of writing despite serious injury and disability. I haven't read any of his books yet, but he's definitely on my to-read list.
Update: Adding Flash Gold, Lindsay Buroker's steampunk-western series set in an alternate-world version of the Yukon Gold Rush to the list.
If you have any recommendations for books that are western with a twist that aren't listed here, please put them in the comments!
Part 2: Movies and TV
Part 3: Music
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