Anne McCoy – Mason County Mothman
DOR-CEE-A Records - Vinyl 7” - 1969
A – Curse Of Cornstock
B – Mason County Mothman
I love music, I love vinyl, I love monsters, and I love mysteries, so, in theory, I should love everything about this record. Yet the only mystery here is what the hell happened to turn such a promising record into such an unlistenable mess.
We can start with the audio itself. A woman (presumably Anne McCoy) with a soft, southern drawl launches without introduction into an unbroken minute-and-a-half long tale about the Mason County Mothman. On paper, this probably seems like it should be amazing, but her story is told in elementary school-level rhyming couplets, which are instantly annoying and eventually maddening:
“Its eyes were big and round and glowing red,
And it gave the people who saw it a frightful dread.
-- -- --
The Mason County Sheriff’s Department had a mystery that night,
When they heard an awful story of a Mothman in flight.
-- -- --
The Mothman creature who was giving everyone fright,
By appearing suddenly in the dark of the night."
I apologize for not transcribing more of the lyrics, because they are quite interesting, but there’s another mitigating factor preventing this record from being listenable, much less enjoyable – the music. For reasons I still can’t comprehend, unless it’s for the sake of “sounding spooky,” McCoy’s poem is joined by an atonal and entirely anti-melodic piano accompaniment, and that’s putting it mildly. Far from sounding spooky, the piano makes it difficult to hear and unpleasant to sit through stanza after never-ending stanza from McCoy.
The image that comes immediately to mind is one of an overwhelmed middle-aged mother nervously trying to recite the lyrics to an unmemorized poem while her shithead kids screw around on a piano in the background, running their grubby little fingers up and down the length of the keyboard in a way that suggests they care neither about the condition of the instrument nor the wellbeing of anyone within earshot of their cacophony.
And this is the memorable side of the album.
UPDATE: According to the news clipping below...I wasn't too far off. McCoy's creative, if tone deaf, children provided the background tunes for her poems ON HOMEMADE INSTRUMENTS. This simple symphony included a toy truck being pushed across the keys of a piano, food brushes on a pie pan, a bottle rolled across the floor, a shaken can of corks and rattle box, and an opened and closed squeaky cabinet door.
The A-side is almost better, as it uses what sounds like pre-recorded organ accompaniment that must have been cribbed from something else (because it actually has melody) set to another of McCoy’s poems, this time performed with an even slower and drawlier drawl. This story is about “Chief Cornstalk,” who we learn is something of a mythological figure in West Virginia lore for dying in battle and placing a 100-year curse on Point Pleasant. The curse appears to extend even to this album, as the track on the record is labeled “Curse of CORNSTOCK,” an error I have to believe was introduced through misunderstanding McCoy’s twangy pronunciation of “cornstalk.”
This record is truly an abomination. Please give it a listen, I cannot recommend it enough.