With its rich history of storytelling, country music and its folk origins often suit the soundtracks of major motion pictures. For a period piece, old-time music feeds our preconceived notions about different times and places. In contemporary settings, country music helps depict the lifestyle choices and nightlife expectations of someone like Urban Cowboy‘s main character, Bud Davis.
In these five instances, well-crafted soundtracks paired well with memorable films, further exposing not just contemporary country music, but also the very roots of recorded sound.
Cold Mountain (2003)
Producer T. Bone Burnett made sure this Appalachian folk music soundtrack suited a Civil War period piece. To pull this off, he looked to subject experts, from Alison Krauss to singers of shape note hymns, as well as big names from the rock world (Elvis Costello, Sting, film co-star Jack White, etc.). It’s less celebrated than Burnett’s work on the O Brother soundtrack, yet no less authentic.
To some, it’s good ole bluegrass music. To others, it’s the unofficial soundtrack to negative stereotypes in action. Either way, “Dueling Banjos” became a Deep South reference point for the masses through the playing skills of Eric Weissberg. In pop culture, it remains the most obvious bluegrass reference point, aside from maybe the Beverly Hillbillies theme.
Disney’s Robin Hood (1973)
For children of the ’70s and Disney devotees of all ages, Roger Miller isn’t the legendary singer, songwriter and guitarist with the talents to scat through a funny song one minute and then make you feel his pain and loss the next. He’s a technicolor rooster, sharing the story of Robin Hood through his own additions to Disney’s musical canon.
O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
This film and its soundtrack had incalculable impact on pretty much everything labeled folk, country or Americana. The front porch picking sessions and congregational hymns at the roots of it all get magnified with the help of the best talents that producer T. Bone Burnett could find– Gillian Welch, Alison Krauss, Dan Tyminski, the Whites, Emmylou Harris, John Hartford and numerous others.
Urban Cowboy (1980)
Although it’s vilified at times for propping up the sort of pop fluff that made Randy Travis and other real country singers necessary, the Urban Cowboy soundtrack has its merits. The honky tonk bar bearing Mickey Gilley’s name became a mainstream buzz word, and even more people got exposed to Charlie Daniels’ already successful tune about fiddling contests and Faustian deals, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.”
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