“Get Low” Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Get Low
Rounder Records
4 stars (out of 5)

By Aaron Keith Harris

The presence of Robert Duvall and Bill Murray is enough to get me to buy a ticket to Get Low when it comes to my corner of the American hinterlands. Likewise, the presence of Alison Krauss’ first new track since 2007’s A Hundred Miles or More should be enough to get you to grab this soundtrack CD. Written by Aoife O’Donovan and featuring Dan Tyminski (mandolin), Barry Bales (bass), Bryan Sutton (guitar) and Jerry Douglas (Dobro), “Lay My Burden Down” seems the perfect tone-setter for a tale of a man who hosts his own funeral before he dies. Krauss’ voice is as dreamily eloquent as ever, and leaves you wanting more, much more.

Krauss’ fellow Rounder recording artists The SteelDrivers contribute four selections to this 16-track, 46-minute soundtrack: traditional bluegrass instrumentals “Whiskey Before Breakfast,” “East Virginia Fast” and “Angelina Baker” along with “Jesus Come for Me,” which features the spine-tingling lead vocals of Chris Stapleton, who has since left the band.

Jerry Douglas contributes some incidental music for the movie, some self-penned (“Sitting Mule/Drive to Town”), some in collaboration with Stuart Duncan (fiddle) (the rustic “No Haircut” and “North”), or Russ Barenberg (guitar) and Edgar Meyer (bass) (the exhilarating “Monkey Bay”) and some composed by Jan A.P. Kaczmarek (“Drive to Town for Clothes”).

With some period nostalgia added in the form of selections from The Ink Spots, Gene Austin, Paul Whiteman and Bix Beiderbecke, this soundtrack aptly sets the stage for what looks like a nice film.

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“Crazy Heart: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack”

Crazy Heart: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
New West Records
4 stars (out of 5)

In spite—or perhaps because—of its similarities to the 1983 classic Tender Mercies, Crazy Heart is a really good film. Jeff Bridges as washed up country singer Bad Blake deserved the Best Actor Oscar that he won, and Maggie Gyllenhaal, Robert Duvall and Colin Farrell all turn in fine supporting efforts in a tale of redemption through love and music.

The music is essential to the film, and director Scott Cooper, with the help of T Bone Burnett and fine performances from his actors, nails it. The approach is much different than the one Burnett used in O Brother, Where Art Thou?, which was essentially a musical comedy. Crazy Heart is a film about music as a profession and craft, and its essential to show the characters doing it in a credible way.

It’s also more important than in other films to pick background songs that fit the mood of the piece. Buck Owens’ “Hello Trouble” evokes the world of country music that the fictional Blake must have risen from, as does “My Baby’s Gone” by the Louvin Brothers, whose beatific voices stand in for the beauty that has been lost in Blake’s life.

Townes Van Zandt’s “If I Needed You” is a perfect song, symbolic of the ideal that Blake has reached for in the past and might manage again, and Lightning Hopkins’”Once a Gambler” represents both Blake’s fortunes and the blues edge that influences his sound. Waylon Jennings’ “Are You Sure Hank Done it This Way?” is used to great effect in the film when Blake re-encounters his protege amid the extravagant trappings of a modern country tour.

The only song that doesn’t belong here is Sam Phillips’ “Reflecting Light;” it just doesn’t fit the mood of the overall piece, but Phillips is Burnett’s wife, so there you go.

Bridges sings on six of the 16 tracks on this 49-minute CD, and every one is a gem, the actor’s voice proving to be as engaging as his personality. “Hold On You” opens the album with a brooding, laconic energy that you’d expect to hear from Van Zandt, “Somebody Else” and “I Don’t Know”  have the feel of rockin’ Waylon tunes, and “Brand New Angel” sounds like barroom Dylan.

“Fallin’ and Flyin’”—Blake’s fictional megahit— gets two versions, one studio take with Bridges and a live duet with Colin Farrell that sounds exactly like a country song at a big outdoor music shed should sound, wide echo and all. Farrell also contributes “Gone, Gone, Gone,” a credible nod to an updated version of Cash’s Sun sound.

Ryan Bingham contributes his own version of “I Don’t Know” in a rough-worn voice that is used to even greater effect on “The Weary Kind,” which won the Oscar for best original song. Written by Bingham and Burnett, in the film it is the creative act with which Blake redeems himself in his own eyes and, for once, a song of this type is as great as the plot calls for. It will haunt you long after hearing this fine soundtrack or watching the equally fine film.

by Aaron Keith Harris