T Bone Burnett proved it with his stunningly successful production of the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack: He’s not only got the touch when it comes to eliciting magical performances, he’s also got impeccable taste. On his latest award-winning project (a Golden Globe for Best Song, “The Weary Kind,” L.A. Film Critics Association Award, BFCA Critics Choice Award—so far), Burnett and co-producer Stephen Bruton weave together some of country/roots music’s finest songs with new recordings made for the film. With the right mood and the right sonics, actor/musician Jeff Bridges’ performance of “Hold on You” (written by Burnett, Bruton, John Goodwin and Bob Neuwirth) easily segues to Buck Owens’ remarkable “Hello Trouble,” for example.
The Deluxe Edition of the soundtrack, which was released this week, includes an extra generous handful of great songs. Whereas the first soundtrack that came out last month included 18 songs from the film, the Deluxe Edition provides every song from the movie, sequenced in the order they’re played in the film. Songs exclusive to the Deluxe soundtrack include Kitty Wells’ “Searching (for Someone Like You),” George Jones’ “Color of the Blues,” Lucinda Williams’ rocker “Joy” and actor Robert Duvall breezing through a casual a cappella version of one of my favorite songs, Billy Joe Shaver’s “Live Forever.” This is one of those albums where, if we simply listed the covers on Crazy Heart, that would be enough to recommend the album, especially if you’ve seen the film, but there’s more to it than that. It’s the intimacy of Ryan Bingham’s vocal on “The Weary Kind” and the texture of the strings on it and the quiet swell of the pump organ. It’s the complex acting/singing talent of Jeff Bridges. It’s Gavin Lurssen’s typically seamless mastering work that lets new songs easily sit side by side with country classics from Owens, the Louvin Brothers, Waylon Jennings, etc. If anyone out there needs a reason to still buy CDs, here’s one.
Producers: T Bone Burnett, Stephen Bruton. Recording Engineer: Mike Piersante. Mixed by Piersante and Jason Wormer. Additional recording by Jason Wormer and Andrew Click. Studios: The Village (West L.A.), Electro Magnetic Studios (L.A.), Stepbridge Studios (Santa Fe, NM). Mastering: Gavin Lurssen/Lurssen Mastering (Hollywood).