Music composed and conducted by John Frizzell
Label: Milan Records
Year: 2005

1. I'm Sitting on Top of the World (k.d. Lang)
2. Bye Bye Blues (Les Paul & Mary Ford)
3. The Affadasies
4. Main Title
5. Anatomy of a Contest
6. Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams (Dee Carstensen)
7. Tulips
8. Feet First
9. Ryan Family Album
10. We Won!
11. Do You Ever Wish…
12. Rag Mop (The Ames Brothers)
13. Making a Break for Goshen
14. Wheel of Fortune (Kay Starr)
15. Forgive Him
16. Spilled Milk
17. Hittin’ the Road
18. The World is Waiting for the Sunrise (Les Paul & Mary Ford)
19. Shopping Spree
20. I'm Sitting on Top of the World (Woody Harrelson)

Total Time: 49:45

Reviewed by
Jorge Saldanha


Every time I've heard some news about John Frizzell, the first thing that comes to my mind is... Alien Resurrection (1997). There's no doubt about it, that was the weakiest score of the Alien franchise. At the same year Frizzell made an interesting entry with Dante's Peak, but with that sci-fi effort he missed a big opportunity to enter to the list of  Hollywood's top composers. Since then, the composer is being attached to low budget movies, comedies like Beavis and Butthead Do America and The Goodbye Girl, as well for some more serious efforts like the recent Gods and Generals.

Now comes this little 1950's contest winner story, directed by Jane Anderson and starring Julianne Moore and Woody Harrelson. The film soundtrack incorporates some period songs like "Rag Mop" (The Ames Brothers), "Bye, Bye Blues", "The World is Waiting for the Sunrise" (Les Paul & Mary Ford), the ballad "Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams" (Dee Carstensen), and two versions of "I'm Sitting on Top of the World" (K.D Lang and the singing actor Woody Harrelson).

Besides the songs, the soundtrack album features an expressive amount of an inspiring and surprising score from Frizzell, that describes the assignment as "very thematic, yet orchestrated in a delicate and exposed way. Quite often the fiddle is accompanied by just a harp and piano. Instruments like the ukelele are incorporated to reflect popular music of that era. The score is intimate but has a strong sense of Americana to it." Indeed, the film is scored for small-ish ensemble of strings, woodwinds, piano, harp, percussion, then spotlights solo fiddle, guitar. There are nice performances of musicians like Sara Watkins (fiddle) and Sean Watkins (guitar) from "newgrass" band Nickel Greek.

The score starts at track 3, the fun ragtime / charleston "The Affadasies", a preview of the joyous tonalities that permeates this music. With "Main Title" enters the score central and touching theme, introduced by piano. The theme is well developed through guitar, fiddle and jazz percussion. "Anatomy of a Contest" is a fine example of Frizzell's versatility, a complete orquestral piece that blends creative crescendos with jazzy touches. The more dramatic side of the score arrives with the reflexive "Tulips", where the guitar is a highlight and there are references to the main theme. "We Won" affords beautiful moment for strings, piano and solo cello. An accessible melody dominates, and the textures remain transparent.

Harp, guitar and piano open "Forgive Him", then strings and solo fiddle, all assume center stage. This track is a melodic development from "Do You Ever Wish". In "Spilled Milk", gentle guitar and strings lay down minor key idea, but piano dominates with sparse, open chords. "Ryan Family Album" is constructed around a gentle rock & roll, almost Rythm & Blues, with a choir helping to give it light tones. "Making a Break for Goshen" keep the fun and jazzy tonalities, where the highlights are the fiddle, bass and guitar solos. "Hittin' the Road" is a short but intense revisitation of the main theme, where the rock & roll returns, this time in a more definite way. Here the male voices are replaced by a female choir.

Well, purchasing this CD you'll get 7 performances by various artists including K.D. Lang, Les Paul & Mary Ford, Ames Brothers and Woody Harrelson, as well 13 tracks by Frizzell. Despite my reservations about some early works of John Frizzell, in fact the composer gave to this little movie a fresh and sensitive score. I really hope that, somehow, this effort may help him to obtain more high profile assignments.