"What is it about that cowboy spirit that inevitably produces great
soundtracks? Head West young man (or is it South?) and grow up with the
Not that the music is always country, or even country and western. Morricone
didn’t follow that tune; nor does Joe Kraemer with the current, and terrific,
The Way Of The Gun score. This soundtrack is closer to rustic roots, but it is
quite a treat to have these two neo-western soundtracks released simultaneously.
The ‘neo-western’ term I’ve borrowed from Kraemer; and this one seems to
evoke a little of every nuance a prefix can add to the West: spaghetti, wild,
neo, take your pick.
With Johnny Cash’s son-in-law, and childhood guitar and mandolin prodigy,
Marty Stuart in the front saddle, it is a soundtrack providing a smooth but
exhilarating ride. Innovative it ain’t; evocative it is.
The ears take in the crisp twangy guitar and mandolin-picked phrases, and a
vivid panorama opens up before the mind’s eye. Don’t let the bucolic roots
fool you, this music has more style than the urban inanities overflowing on the
Varying between ambience and exuberance with cavalier aplomb; Chickin’
pickin’, hot lickin’, boot-scootin’ bluegrass-chewin’ dixie-jiggin’
goodness intertwines seamlessly with romantic strings, piano and accordian.
The individual voice of every instrument is captured in its intricacy by this
recording. Plucks, scrapes, twangs, strums, bows and bellows; and even a few
songs; match the richness and immensity of the landscape they evoke. It is
almost tonal personification. Earth, Nature, The Fates and The Elements brought
to life like the dusty haze of a Steinbeck novel or the broad vistas of the
entire cinematic tradition of the Western.
When the linear phrases aren’t sparking from Stuart’s guitar, such as in
the magnum opus, Malarki Opus In D Major, they provide the perfect galloping
rhythm to support the main romantic motifs. You know the deal: one and-a-two;
didi-clop didi-clop didi . . .
Complemented with a couple of typically rustic musings from Daniel Lanois;
this is a score that is almost impossible to dislike.
Of course such earthy and romantic music of American frontiers is hardly a
pioneer for musical frontiers of its own. Rather it is a beautifully
constructed, masterfully played, superbly recorded and delightfully easy
listening experience that is best enjoyed from a rocking chair on a back porch;
and with plenty of time to soak up its luxurious, tonal atmospheres."
Published May 17, 2001