Produced by T Bone Burnett, of 'O Brother Where Art Thou?' fame, the 'Cold Mountain' soundtrack is nothing short of amazing. The songs selected and artists singing them are wonderful and they fit the Civil-War era perfectly.
Alison Krauss sings softly about a man she loves that will never return from the war in "The Scarlet Tide," and in "You Will Be My Ain True Love," written by Sting, she hauntingly sings (with Dan Tyminksi singing harmony) a Celtic-tinged tune about how war will not mark the fate of a couple in love. Jack White sings a total of five tracks including "Wayfaring Stranger," "Never Far Away," and Great High Mountain."
"Lady Margret" is a stand out because Cassie Franklin sings unaccompanied and does a fantastic job even though the subject matter of death is as dark as the night. Tim Eriksen & Riley Baugus take turns singing lines of uptempo "The Cuckoo," a song about journeys.
Tim Eriksen, Riley Baugus, along with Tim O'Brien sing such old-time lyrics such as "The owl is a lonely bird. It chills my heart with dread until someone's blood was there on his wings" in "I Wish My Baby Was Born." "Sitting On Top Of The World," by Jack White, has a bluesy sound to it while maintaining a base of bluegrass to it. Picking up the mood a little bit is Stuart Duncan & Dirk Powell with an instrumental, "Ruby With The Eyes That Sparkle." Closing the album are five Gabriel Yared scores and then "Idumea," by the Sacred Harp Singers at Liberty Church.
Miramax hops on the old-timey bandwagon with the release of the soundtrack for Anthony Minghella's Civil War epic Cold Mountain. Like O Brother, Where Art Thou?'s dark, older sibling, the latest collection of blues, ballads, and laments from producer T-Bone Burnett is a veritable dictionary of traditional country and Americana, but with a weightier muse. Jack White opens the record with a stark rendition of "Wayfaring Stranger" featuring Nashville heavyweights Stuart Duncan, Norman Blake, and Dirk Powell. For the most part, the White Stripes frontman successfully transplants himself into the genre, utilizing his throaty warble on Howlin' Wolf's "Sittin' on Top of the World" like a dust-bowl carny, and channeling fellow tenor Ralph Stanley on "Great High Mountain." However, it's the self-penned "Never Far Away" that elevates White above his garage rock trappings. With its delicate front-porch picking and wistful lyrics, it manages to walk the line between heartache and puppy love with a sweetness that's genuinely moving. That same bleeding heart pumps through Alison Krauss' delivery of Elvis Costello's powerful "Scarlet Tide," a ballad of devastating beauty that works almost like a spiritual. Recovering songwriter Sting contributes the record's only bad apple, the bland "You Will Be My Ain True Love." Krauss does her best to paint the tune in period colors, but Sting -- who insists on singing harmony -- keeps the piece firmly entrenched in the very nonsepia-toned world of adult-contemporary pop. Unfortunately, the orchestral work for the film is hastily assembled as if it were an afterthought. While it may lack the initial punch of Tim Eriksen's "I Wish My Baby Was Born" or either of the shape-note tunes provided by the Sacred Harp Singers at Liberty Church, Burnett clusters composer Gabriel Yared's understated score at the end of the record, delegating it as filler, which is unfair, as its quiet power mirrors the songs as well as the characters.
by James Christopher Monger
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