Music Reviews
Cold Mountain

Cold Mountain

Music From the Miramax Motion Picture


I absolutely despised the film Cold Mountain. Partly because of its let’s-see-which-excellent-actor-we’ll-run-into-next rambling and unnecessarily sadistic violence, but mainly because of the sense of entitlement Miramax had riding this turd of a movie toward the Oscars. I don’t think so, boys…

It’s almost unfathomable that such a horrid film could contain such phenomenal music. Produced by uber-soundtracker T-Bone Burnett (O Brother, Where Art Thou?, The Ladykillers), the album is just about as authentic as it gets from an instrumental point of view. Relying predominantly on duos and trios of banjo, fiddle and/or mandolin, Burnett needs to do very little rearranging on traditional tracks like “Wayfaring Stranger” and “I Wish My Baby Was Born,” nor is change necessary on the two awe-inspiring songs by the a cappella maelstrom Sacred Harp Singers at Liberty Church, “I’m Going Home” and “Idumea.”

The original songs “The Scarlet Tide” and “You Will Be My Ain True Love” provide nice modernizations of the album’s musical themes by eschewing the scrape and twang for soft, flowing piano and cello lines. Both of the songs are sung by Alison Krauss, an excellent vocalist in her own right, but on here she’s more than a little out of place among the Appalachian atonalities.

More appropriate star power is used in The White Stripes’ Jack White, who appears on five tracks, as well as being featured in the film. White sounds very at ease and natural going back to his roots, aside from the almost baroque Beatles-esque pop of the self-penned “Never Far Away.”

There are few instances I can think of where a soundtrack is as equally essential as the movie it came from, fewer still where the music is superior. Cold Mountain just might top that meager list.

Columbia Records:

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