Album Review: Various Artists – Crazy Heart (Soundtrack)

Sam Gazdziak | January 20th, 2010

crazy-heartFrom the soundtrack to O Brother, Where Art Thou to his work on the Robert Plant/Alison Krauss collaboration, T-Bone Burnett is the top producer for country and Americana “event” recordings. His latest event is the soundtrack for current awards show darling Crazy Heart, co-produced by the late Stephen Bruton.

The two movies couldn’t be more different, but the soundtracks have some striking similarities. Like the O Brother soundtrack, the songs here are split among classic recordings, originals from contemporary artists and a spattering of material performed by the actors themselves. Songs like “Hello Trouble” by Buck Owens, “My Baby’s Gone” by the Louvin Brothers and “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way” are classics in every sense of the word and should be a part of any country fan’s library. Added to that are tracks from Townes Van Zandt, Sam Phillips and Lightning Hopkins to represent the Americana side of the music.

Ryan Bingham, who also appears in the movie, chips in a couple of songs. The bouncy “I Don’t Know” is probably the most instantly accessible song that Bingham has ever recorded. There are two versions of it, with Bingham’s version trumping Jeff Bridges’ more laid-back take. “The Weary Kind,” written with Burnett, is deservedly getting the most notice, and the amount of awards it’s received have all but guaranteed it an Oscar nomination for Best Song. Perfectly suited to Bingham’s gravelly voice, the song captures the life of the hard-living troubled soul that’s central to the movie. More importantly, it stands on its own as a moving ballad, independent of any movie.

The bulk of the songs are left up to the vocal abilities of Bridges as main character Bad Blake. Bridges–who does have an album under his belt–has a warm, gruff voice with a bit of a soulful tinge to it. He’s ably backed by a band that’s more Americana than mainstream country (When was the last time you heard an accordion on country radio?), but the songs like “Hold On You” and “Fallin’ & Flyin’” are so instantly catchy that they might have become hits in the Outlaw Era. Bridges does a solid job on them, but the overall success of his songs are due more to the quality of the songwriters and the band than the singer.

The biggest surprise on the album is that Colin Farrell, who gets a song and a half on the soundtrack, could be a country star if the whole actor/international sex symbol thing doesn’t work out for him. His performance on “Gone, Gone, Gone” is better than most of the songs released by actual country singers over the past year.

Bruton, who had made a name for himself as a musician, songwriter and singer, died after a long bout with cancer in 2009. He co-wrote most of the original songs along with Burnett and a few others. It’s a fitting finale for a career that stretched more than 40 years and hopefully will shed some light on a man who spent too much of his career flying under the radar.

4 Stars

  1. Steve M.
    January 20, 2010 at 9:07 am

    I can only hope this lifts Ryan Bingham to mainstream success, but given that he is not a perky teenager, a pretty boy, or mouses and frosts his hair, I won’t hold my breath.

  2. J.R. Journey
    January 20, 2010 at 9:09 am

    I keep waiting for this movie to open in my area. I am really looking forward to seeing it. Jeff Bridges has long been a favorite of mine, and I am a sucker for country music-themed flicks.

  3. Andrew
    January 20, 2010 at 9:43 am

    This album has me excited to see the movie. Man, Bridges looks just like Waylon in that costume.

  4. Leeann Ward
    January 20, 2010 at 10:45 am

    I was pleasantly surprised by Farrell too.

  5. Dan Milliken
    January 20, 2010 at 11:01 am

    Sorry to nitpick, but were any of the songs in O Brother actually sung by the actors?

    Also, I’m just gonna say it: I think “The Weary Kind” comes across kind of contrived (which can be a bit of a problem with Bingham’s work in general), and I find the picking arrangement on it clunky and distracting. I love Bingham when he’s on, though, so I’d still like to see him get some publicity for this. The soundtrack as a whole sounds great, and same by the review.

  6. Leeann Ward
    January 20, 2010 at 11:36 am

    I like both of Bingham’s songs on this soundtrack, though “I Don’t Know” is definitely more accessible and catchy. For some reason, “The Weary Kind” reminds me of something that Dwight Yoakam might do.

  7. Sam G.
    January 20, 2010 at 11:43 am

    “Sorry to nitpick, but were any of the songs in O Brother actually sung by the actors?”

    Tim Blake Nelson had a song on the soundtrack. I was thinking of Chris Thomas King as well, but I keep forgetting that he’s probably a musician first, actor second.

  8. Brody Vercher
    January 20, 2010 at 11:49 am

    For those interested, the entire soundtrack can be streamed on AOL Music.

  9. Steve M.
    January 20, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    Thanks for that link Brody. After listening to the entire album, I would have to say that Colin Farrell sounds like he has been playing honky tonks all of his life. This is a solid album, though every time Jeff Bridges sings, I get this image of The Dude having gone country.

  10. Steve Harvey
    January 20, 2010 at 7:14 pm

    I can only hope this lifts Ryan Bingham to mainstream success,
    Well, George Clooney’s portrayal of him as UP IN THE AIR is getting good reviews, so maybe there will be some kind of WALK THE LINE effect from that movie.

  11. stormy
    January 20, 2010 at 7:29 pm

    Apparently Callin Farrell flirted with joining Boyzone at one point–he swears that his voice was as good as the rest of the band. Then again, I don’t know if that makes it more or less weird that he does a good country vocal.

  12. stormy
    January 20, 2010 at 7:32 pm

    That should be Colin Farrell

  13. Steve M.
    January 20, 2010 at 7:57 pm

    I am almost afraid to ask, but what is Boyzone? Sounds like a creepy amusement park.

  14. antonio
    January 20, 2010 at 9:17 pm

    if i remember correctly, ‘boyzone’ is where lou perlman found his true pleasure in life.

  15. stormy
    January 20, 2010 at 9:18 pm

    They were an Irish boyband. Kind of Ireland’s answer to Take That, which spawned Robbie Williams, whom for some reason I adore.

    Hey, he’s better than Jessica Simpson!

    Oh wait, that’s not a compliment. Those girls in the audience were better than Jessica Simpson.

  16. Steve M.
    January 20, 2010 at 10:29 pm

    You scare me sometimes Stormy with these obscure pieces of knowledge.

  17. stormy
    January 20, 2010 at 10:51 pm

    I scare myself sometimes.

  18. Steve Harvey
    January 20, 2010 at 10:52 pm

    Hate to break it to you guys, but Take That are far from obscure. Anywhere else in the world but North America, Robbie Williams is a superstar. He’s sold out football stadiums when he’s toured down here – he’s one of the most significant solo male artists of the last decade.
    His lack of success Stateside has always baffled me a little.

    Boyzone are also pretty big in the rest of the English speaking world, although terrible.

  19. stormy
    January 20, 2010 at 10:54 pm

    Although, in my defense I am in the right age group, though the wrong country, for Boyzone and Take That. Which means we are all really old.

    Seriously, I heard Old Hippie the other day and it started with “He turned thirty-five last Sunday
    In his hair he found some gray” and it was like “shut up stupid song I used to like.”

  20. stormy
    January 20, 2010 at 10:54 pm

    Hate to break it to you guys, but Take That are far from obscure. Anywhere else in the world but North America, Robbie Williams is a superstar. He’s sold out football stadiums when he’s toured down here – he’s one of the most significant solo male artists of the last decade.

    YEAH. See, I’m not scary knowledgeable, I’m just scary. Aw, crap.

  21. Steve M.
    January 20, 2010 at 11:38 pm

    I celebrate now when I don’t find gray. But then I am the last man in America clinging to his 90s goatee, which is becoming dangerously white. I must have missed Robbie Williams, but after looking him up, his career began after I lost all interest in popular music (right around when Kurt Corbain realized the only way to escape Courtney Love was in death).

  22. stormy
    January 21, 2010 at 6:49 pm

    See, this is where women have the advantage. I still have the same hair color I had when I was 22. And I still get it at the same store.

  23. Steve M.
    January 21, 2010 at 7:32 pm

    Yes, a man who dyes his hair just looks suspicious and sad.

  24. Troy
    January 21, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    @Stormy I have Robbie’s new cd. To bad JLS beat it to the number one album. The Uk has lately been putting out a lot of good albums

  25. stormy
    January 21, 2010 at 9:28 pm

    I want to get Robbie’s new cd.

  26. Madison
    January 23, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    Hey, this is the main music video for the theme song!


  27. Cassidy Rice
    January 24, 2010 at 10:04 pm

    I can’t wait to see the Movie Crazy Heart. The soundtrack is really cool and it sounds like a really interesting story. Check out this video I found of Ryan Bingham performing a song off the soundtrack. I really like this song “The Weary Kind”.

  28. Jon G.
    January 24, 2010 at 10:48 pm

    Two of the smarter choices the Globes made were giving Best Actor-Drama to Jeff Bridges and giving Best Original Song to “The Weary Kind.”

  29. waymore
    February 22, 2010 at 7:13 pm

    weary kind reminds me of dylan’s don’t think twice it’s all right

  30. Randy
    February 22, 2010 at 8:02 pm

    Waymore, thanks for that observation. I knew the song struck familiar “chords” (sorry, but it works) with me but could not put my finger on it. I think you got it.

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