It may seem ironic to choose murder, torture and lawlessness as themes for a compilation to benefit the National Coalition Against the Death Penalty, but Jon Langford & the Pine Valley Cosmonauts

It may seem ironic to choose murder, torture and lawlessness as themes for a compilation to benefit the National Coalition Against the Death Penalty, but Jon Langford & the Pine Valley Cosmonauts have made a specialty of it. In the first installment of "The Executioner's Last Songs," their acclaimed 2002 collection, artists ranging from Steve Earle to Rosie Flores contributed to the cause. The project was so successful that hordes of other musicians jumped on board for the sequel, resulting in this two-CD set highlighted by appearances from Dave Alvin, Alejandro Escovedo, Mark Eitzel, Sally Timms and Langford himself, who is best-known for leading the Mekons and the Waco Brothers. The material on "Volumes 2 and 3" spans covers of traditional murder ballads like "Gallows Pole," "Strange Fruit" and "Banks of the Ohio." But some thematically appropriate originals are thrown in as well.—PV