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
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.