I knew as soon as I saw the Soundtrack for Bernie pop up in my inbox that this review was tailor made for me. I figured I could count on a film with Matthew McConaughey and Richard Linklater attached to it, which premiered in Austin during the SXSW Film Festival, to hold true to it’s Texas roots and have some good old Central Texas tunes to go with it. I was not disappointed, if anything I still underestimated the album before I stopped to listen to it. I’m a Texas girl, not a country girl per se, but a Texas girl. Anyone who has ever lived in Texas, especially around Austin, knows exactly what that means. I don’t go in for new country or country pop, Texas music has an old soul and character and is reminiscent of Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard. Having an album full of Texas music as a film soundtrack is thoroughly enjoyable for me.
Linklater couldn’t have chosen anyone better than Graham Reynolds to put together the score for this film. Reynolds has scored such films as A Scanner Darkly and Five Time Champion. His next job will also be with Richard Linklater in his Hulu project, Up to Speed to premiere soon. Reynolds is also an Austinite and has his own affinity for Central Texas music and artists.
“The Austin country music scene has some of my favorite musicians in the world,” said Reynolds. “People like Dale Watson and Redd Volkaert are incredible talents that we Austinites are lucky enough to experience regularly. When Richard Linklater approached me about the score, I couldn’t wait to dive into an intense project with them.”
Aside from the Texas artists, Jack Black is featured on the album for his own film. I enjoy me some Jack Black. Listening to Tenacious D, I sometimes forget how beautifully Mr. Black sings. One of my favorite things is his rendition of Marvin Gaye’s “Lets Get it On”. His cover work is excellent and always puts a smile on my face. This whole album put a smile on my face. Even the instrumental moments, which tend to aggravate me when I purchase a soundtrack were filled with life and story and I found them enjoyable. Reynolds speaks on working to balance the strings, Texas influence and Mr. Jack Black all on one album.
“I tried to weave one sound world while working with three distinct elements: songs with Jack Black, score featuring a string quartet, and Austin country music. Themes from old hymns weave their way into all three and each palette feeds the other.”
In my humble opinion he did exactly what he set out to do and represented the film fantastically. The songs on the album are listed below with a little commentary on some of my favorite songs and one story of an encounter I had years ago with one of the artists.
1 Love Lifted Me 4:40 Jack Black
2 Always First Class 1:14 Graham Reynolds
3 What Ever Happened to Sam 2:31 Dale Watson – I’m always down for some Dale Watson, his voice is like no other and his guitar skills are hot! Even his speaking voice has beautiful timber to it. This track has quite a bit of twang to it and hits hard. It’s an enjoyable romp into real Texas music and makes me want to get up and dance, despite my inability to do so.
4 Beautiful Dreamer 1:48 Jack Black
5 Ocean Liner 1:34 Graham Reynolds
6 Everything… About Drinkin 3:11 Heybale!
7 Eee-gypt 1:17 Graham Reynolds
8 Symphony No. 1, Movement 5 (edit) 1:30 Graham Reynolds – I thoroughly enjoyed these two compositions tremendously. It starts with a fun wind, percussion and string interpretation of an Egyptian ditty, which is very enjoyable to listen to. Suddenly the next song turns into an exciting adventure track, giving us perilous tunes and creating barely contained excitement with a build to a frenzied horn and wind melee, which then evolves into a soothing lullaby. The range and emotions that are evoked by pairing these two tracks is just stunning.
9 El Colas 2:13 Mitote
10 Folding Underwear (What a Friend We Have In Jesus) 1:49 Graham Reynolds
11 Armadillo Gun (Oh Sacred Head, Now Wounded) 1:44 Graham Reynolds
12 Seventy-Six Trombones 1:33 Jack Black – This reminds me of Mary Poppins for some reason and may be my favorite track on the album. It makes me smile from ear to ear. The horns and winds are so happy, and hearing Jack Black sing along with this anthem is the icing on the cake.
13 I Can Get Over You 4:01 Miss Leslie
14 They Gave Me Life (Flee As A Bird) 1:35 Graham Reynolds
15 Hands on Hard Body (What a Friend We Have In Jesus) 2:01 Graham Reynolds
16 Les Hors d’Oeuvres et Boit 1:41 Graham Reynolds
17 He Touched Me 0:57 Jack Black
18 Back to the Cell (Oh Sacred Head, Now Wounded) 2:31 Graham Reynolds
19 Bernie What Have You Done 1:58 James Baker
There isn’t a track on this album that I didn’t enjoy. The Texas artists are some of the cream of the crop, the original score is breathtaking and fun and really pulls you in to the experience. Jack Black’s tracks are fantastic, working with Graham Reynolds seems to have brought a whole new level to his musical performance. Hearing Mr. Black sing “He Touched Me” is a whole other odd experience in itself. I can’t stop listening to this soundtrack.
A quick aside on Mr. Dale Watson: A few years ago I had gone in to a local retro furniture shop to purchase a great original red Formica and chrome kitchen table and a set of red Naugahyde chairs with rivets around the back rest and seat cushion. I fell in love with it instantly. So, it appears, did Dale Watson. When I came back later to buy some glasses that I had seen on the table and matched it superbly, I found Mr. Watson buying the glasses. When I exclaimed “You took my glasses!”, he replied, “You took my table.” And ladies, I am pretty sure he could have talked me out of it in ten seconds flat if he had tried. I can’t explain his voice to you, you’ve just gotta hear it. That man could read me my washing machine instructions and I would swoon. He had come in to purchase the table right after I put money down on it. Needless to say I let him keep the glasses and I made away with the table, which still sits in my kitchen today and serves as a fond reminder of that lovely, lovely voice.