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Review by Brad Green:
Not too many rookies here; and not too many strike-outs either from a team of country-blues veterans. First up to bat is Steve Earle, whose contribution was penned specifically for the film – although you’d be hard pressed to tell. A straightforward tune delivered via a rugged drawl and a thick layer of guitars, it’s no revelation to observe that Earle’s trod this track before; and this particular track is both a solid and unspectacular opener.

Next up is another veritable campaigner in John Fogerty. Now this is a guy even less likely to throw a curve ball than Earle. He was once sued by a record company for plagiarising himself; which did seem a trifle unfair seeing that everybody else had been borrowing his old Clearance Clearwater Revival style for years as well. In any case, here we find him churning out the sweetly gritty sound that has made him worth emulating. 

Even better is John Hiatt’s strong-burning Slow Turning. You could hear a thousand whisky-soaked vocalists in a thousand bars and not find anything to match the character of his performance on this song. And what a song. Simplicity made successful. You can break it down to a few simple strums and some slide guitar and wonder why it packs such a punch. But it does.

Meanwhile there’s more quality string twanging from reliable campaigners like Jefferson Airplane and Willie Nelson, while rising star Ryan Adams offers the soundtrack’s poignant ballad.

The soundtrack’s power ballad, and song highlight, however, comes courtesy of Shelby Lynne’s younger sister, Allison Moorer. Tumbling is the sort of smouldering, blues-fired ballad that Wendy Matthews would commit most of the deadly sins to get her hands on. Moorer’s vocals are perfect, the emotion soars and the production is both flawless and sophisticated – just what are those clever, chorus string voicings doing on a tune from a southern country gal? 

Talking of clever arrangements, all these fine songs are actually overshadowed by two closing cues from Carter Burwell’s score. Burwell has been making a habit of evoking far-flung American landscapes on Coen Brother’s films, and here he demonstrates that he doesn’t need the inspiration of the auteur siblings to be brilliant at it. In fact it’s quite stunning how he manages to be at once musically imaginative and perfectly focussed. For instance, the first of these two lengthy cues manages to fold a rock ‘n’ roll bass line, a guitar riff not unlike the old pop hit Venus and a flute that ranges from jazz frolics to Six Ribbons-esq folk into its opening minute. And still come across as American as apple pie. Or baseball. Or a collection of backwater blues from among the best of the old-time strummers. 

Published October 31, 2002

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TITLE: Rookie, The
ID: 335692
FMR/Hollywood Records
ARTISTS: Steve Earle; John Fogerty; Jefferson Airplane; Allison Moorer; Duane Jarvis; Guy Clark; John Hiatt; Paul Burch & The WPA Ballclub; Eileen Rose; Willie Nelson; Ryan Adams; Carter Burwell

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