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Review by Brad Green:
Wartime angst is understandably the mood of the year in the USA. Perhaps there’s never been a war quite like the “war on terror”, but there had never been a war quite like the one in Vietnam before either; and there are many wounds that still run deep after three decades.

This CD is not really a soundtrack, it’s one of those spin-off concept albums that come with the title prefix: “Music from and inspired by….” So there a couple of songs from the film, and a couple of dozen country, soul and pop performers roped in to lend their voices to the old saws and sores of war: namely courage and camaraderie; loyalty and loss; service and separation. 

There’s a shaky start at the head of the troops, where we find the old warhorse Johnny Cash joining forces with Dave Matthews. Together they warble like a couple of battlefield casualties overdosed on morphine, but after this opening wheezer the performances are consistently excellent. The impressive regiment of artists ranges from grand campaigner Mary Chapin Carpenter to rookies such as Tammy Cochran; and although it’s hardly an urban rock album, there’s enough soul and folk-pop quality in these songs to overcome any country music-phobia. Train’s track even stretches out with a hint of Pink Floyd, including one of those slow-burning, blues guitar solos we used to be able to chill out to on a regular basis before Dave Gilmour reached a dotage that was no longer fashionable for pop radio. 

Admittedly, some of the lyricists suffer from the bucolic tradition of oversimplification. What is it about pure country air that makes any notion of metaphor evaporate without trace? Nevertheless, simple statements are sometimes raised to higher realms on the backs of fine performances, and there are plenty of those here. Despite the poignant theme, it is a surprisingly entertaining and easy album to enjoy; while remaining a worthy tribute to the sacrifices so often made by soldiers and the loved ones they leave behind.

Published June 6, 2002

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TITLE: We Were Soldiers
ID: 399700 100396
ARTISTS: Johnny Cash & Dave Matthews; Carolyn Dawn Johnson; Train; Steven Curtis Chapman; India.Arie; Five For Fighting; Mary Chapin Carpenter; Tommy Cochran; Jars Of Clay; Jamie O’Neal & Michael McDonald; Montgomery Gentry; Rascal Flatts; Joseph Kilna MacKenzie; United States Military Academy Cadet Glee Club and Metro Voices 

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