As you look back on the year in country music these next couple months, don’t overlook soundtracks. By my count, there have been three worthy country-centric soundtracks released this year, spanning outlaw, bluegrass, and pop-country styles. Here’s a bit about each, including essential tracks if you want to cherry-pick:
If you know about only one of these soundtracks, this is the one. Jeff Bridges’ turn as Bad Blake won him his first Academy Award for Best Actor, and “The Weary Kind” gave Ryan Bingham his first – and, one suspects, last – Academy Award for Best Original Song. So successful was this effort musically that Bridges is now working with Bingham and soundtrack producer T-Bone Burnett on a new non-soundtrack album. The quality of Bad Blake originals like “I Don’t Know” and “Fallin’ and Flyin'” makes me eager to hear what they’ll come up with.
“Hold On You” and “Fallin’ and Flyin'” by Jeff Bridges
“I Don’t Know” and “The Weary Kind” by Ryan Bingham
“Gone, Gone, Gone” by Colin Farrell
The big draw to the soundtrack for this Robert Duvall/Bill Murray film is four – count ’em, four – exclusive tracks from The Steeldrivers, a generous 17% expansion of their Stapleton-era discography (which has now ballooned to 27 tracks). Alison Krauss also shows up to contribute the gorgeous “Lay My Burden Down,” but it’s the instrumental interludes featuring dobro stud Jerry Douglas that give this one its fine acoustic texture. If the movie is half as good as the CD, I should see it.
“Lay My Burden Down” by Alison Krauss
“Jesus Come for Me,” “Whiskey Before Breakfast,” “East Virginia Fast,” and “Angelina Baker” by The Steeldrivers
This is the soundtrack that most begs to be cherry-picked, mixing new tracks by Lee Ann Womack, Sara Evans, Ronnie Dunn, Faith Hill, Trace Adkins, and the duo(!) of Chris Young and Patty Loveless with forgettable contemporary country by competent but indistinct singing actors Gwyneth Paltrow, Leighton Meester, and Tim McGraw (zing!). Lee Ann Womack’s “Liars Lie” is a real treat, a throwback to the days of “Never Again, Again” and “Some Things I Know.” Ronnie Dunn covers Gary Stewart. The movie is scheduled to open everywhere on January 7, 2011.
“Liars Lie” by Lee Ann Womack
“She’s Actin’ Single (I’m Drinkin’ Doubles)” by Ronnie Dunn
“Love Don’t Let Me Down” by Chris Young and Patty Loveless
“Timing is Everything” by Trace Adkins
“Chances Are” by Garrett Hedlund