Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
First Appeared in The Music Box, March 2008, Volume 15, #3
Written by John Metzger
Thu March 6, 2008, 06:30 AM CST
It’s difficult, sometimes, to remember that rock ’n‘ roll once was a formidable force that captured the hearts and minds of everyone who came in contact with it. There’s no doubt that popular culture always has had a tendency toward taking the passion inherent in new, artistic forms and reducing it, over the course of generations, until it becomes nothing more than lifeless pap. Yet, from the pioneering efforts of The Beatles to the incursion of reggae that was led by Bob Marley to the advent of punk, rock ’n‘ roll has managed to stave off its own extinction by reinventing itself in ever-widening contexts. One look at American Idol, any of the many awards programs, or commercial radio, however, is enough to provide proof to those who need it that the genre’s once powerful presence has been diminished in recent years. Everything increasingly is designed for mass marketability, which means that it all must play to a generic, middle ground. In a bid to make the music as inoffensive as possible, rock has become decidedly bland.
Honeydripper might have nothing to do with the downfall of rock ’n‘ roll. Or, it might have everything to do with it. Set in 1950, the film was written and directed by John Sayles, and it stars Danny Glover as the owner of a lounge in Harmony, Alabama. Down on his luck and desperate to save his business, he decides to take a risk and alter the ambience of his venue. As a result, he finds himself playing host to the birth of a new form of musical expression when an electric guitarist begins to attract a crowd. Having not seen the film, it’s difficult to comment upon the specific statement that Sayles is trying to make with his tale, though the movie’s soundtrack clearly is a reminder of how music can break down barriers and alter the course of history.
In many ways, the soundtrack to Honeydripper is an anomaly. Most important, though, it stands on its own accord, outside the scope of the film. The set’s original material — which was written by Mason Daring, and, on occasion, by Sayles — was concocted with tremendous care, and all of the newly penned tunes succeed in their goal of capturing the aura and excitement of a bygone era. The collection is augmented with a few well-chosen oldies, too, which further helps to cement the ideas that the duo was trying to convey.
By combining the swinging jazz of Honeydripper Lounge, the jug-band stomp of Tall Cotton, and the rapturous gospel of Daring and Sayles’ You Got to Choose with Hank Williams’ timeless classic Move It on Over and Keb’ Mo’s bone-chilling interpretation of Stack O Lee, the soundtrack to Honeydripper inevitably provides a thrilling glimpse at the formative moments of rock ’n‘ roll. It is, then, a celebration of the art form that emerged when a ridiculously diverse range of styles collided. Consequently, it stands both as a monument to the genre’s glory days as well as a call-to-arms for someone — anyone — to provide a fresh burst of innovation and spur a new revival. As long as rock is able to prosper and grow, the distant memories of jazz, folk, country, gospel, and blues — the styles that have formed the backdrop for America’s own maturation — also will continue to survive. ˝
Of Further Interest...
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2008 The Music Box