Las Vegas-based SpiritWorld – a creative moniker for artist, author, songwriter, and vocalist Stu Folsom – has moved on from an early ‘countrified’ punk sound into ‘apocalyptic hardcore’ with the debut full-length, Pagan Rhythms, which dropped on July 1oth. A collective effort with a hand from a multitude of artists – including producer/guitarist/bassist Sam Pura and accomplished drummer Thomas Pridgen (The Mars Volta) – the album is bursting with the synaptic rage to fire you up and the musical precision to deliver you to the gods.
Imbued with Western vibes, Pagan Rhythms is a natural step for Folsom as he combines his love of heavy, crushing thrash à la Slayer and 7 Seconds, the rockabilly tunes of George Jones, and dark Western stories from the likes of Cormac McCarthy and the Coen Brothers. If that sounds like a damn good cocktail to you, you should probably consider what has led you down such a sick, twisted path. Or just rock the f*ck out! Presumably, you’ve chosen the latter.
In this sun-baked, spur-wearing Top 10, Folsom lays down the Western films that inspired Pagan Rhythms, from the standard classics to the downright disturbing, with all the spaghetti bloodbaths in between. It’s a nod to the raucous, righteous sounds of SpiritWorld and a celebration of a defining genre, so find your nearest Stetson shop and enjoy.
10. Unforgiven (1992)
“What a film! Originally written by David Peoples (co-wrote Bladerunner) in 1976. When this bad mf’er finally came to life on the big screen, it not only won Academy Awards for Best Picture and a Best Director nod for Clint Eastwood, it also proved once and for all that a great Western can still be relevant even when it pulls no punches and is full of gritty violence.”
9. Bone Tomahawk (2015)
“If you are unfamiliar with S. Craig Zahler, I demand that you stop whatever you have been so busy with and get with the program immediately. You can thank me later. His movies are great and so are his books, just trust your boy, okay? The Bone Tommy is full of razor-sharp dialogue and killer action. Kurt Russell and Richard Jenkins are so good as the Sheriff and back up deputy hunting down cannibal, woman-stealing troglodytes.”
8. Lonesome Dove (1989)
“Lonesome Dove may very well be my favorite western and Gus may be the greatest character ever put to film. I know, I know, the books are always better, and it was made for TV in the ‘80s, but I don’t care. LD is the shit. I love it. Always have and always will.”
7. The Proposition (2005)
“I had really high expectations for this when I first saw it; great reviews, Nick Cave penned the screenplay, and I probably made it fifteen minutes in and fell asleep. Fast forward five or six years and I finally watched this bleak, violent, and strange tale from the outback all the way through and it blew my mind.”
6. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)
“The king of the spaghetti westerns. Clint Eastwood and Sergio Leone’s final chapter of the Dollars Trilogy is the epic, smashing success that launched Eastwood into superstardom. Bounty hunters, sweeping longshots, tight close-ups, and an incredible score by Ennio Morricone. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly took a long time to receive the critical acclaim it deserved, but you would be hard-pressed to find a list of the greatest films of all time that doesn’t include this Italian masterwork.”
5. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)
“I had no idea what this was when it appeared on my Netflix feed, but my love of the Coen Brothers is strong, and I was blown away. The ‘Pan Shot!’ scene kills me just thinking about it, and that creepy thespian ranting and raving still crosses my mind from time to time and gives me the willies. Weird, funny and great. Classic Coen Brothers.”
4. Dances with Wolves (1990)
“I’m a Kevin Costner guy. I admit it. I don’t care if he is playing baseball, running the Yellowstone Ranch or hanging out, assimilating to the Lakota way of life. Wolves is a masterpiece. If you can, track down the alternate, four-hour-long version. Yeah. Four hours. Costner’s sprawling director’s cut is awesome, who needs lame-o Netflix binges when you can lose yourself in the Old West?”
3. The Wild Bunch (1969)
“Sam Peckinpah’s 1969 classic. It’s long, it’s violent, and it’s epic. Beautifully shot and way ahead of its time, I do not understand why it was blasted so hard by critics. Maybe it was just too much when it dropped? The Wild Bunch takes the old, one-more-job outlaw trope to its greatest heights. The big shootout at the coliseum is a must-watch classic of the genre.”
2. The Magnificent Seven (1960)
“Yule Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson and James Coburn starring in an old west remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Samurai masterpiece, Seven Samurai. Hollywood can be cool as fuck sometimes. The Magnificent Seven may not live up to Seven Samurai but what film could, really? Steve McQueen is such a badass that he staged a car accident that kept him off the set of his tv show Wanted Dead or Alive, and while supposedly rehabbing in a neck brace due to whiplash, snuck off to film The Magnificent Seven. This is a must-watch classic.”
1. The Hell Benders (1967)
“The opening fight scene in the river is so awesome. I would love to know how they choreographed all the dynamite chucking and the horses and riders toppling over. If you are into spaghetti westerns, you will dig this lesser-known film; lots of action, a cool plot and great music from the late Ennio Morricone. RIP.”