2020 Album Draft Round 11 Pick 7- Soundtracks- Aphoristical selects Dead Man Walking soundtrack.
Because I run an album review site, I’m pretty fixated on studio albums. I don’t own many soundtracks, and the the reason that I do own the soundtrack to Dead Man Walking is that my friend managed a CD Store and was giving away damaged stock. Dead Man Walking is the 1996 soundtrack to a 1995 Tim Robbins film. I’ve never seen it, but it’s about the relationship between a man on death row (played by Sean Penn) and a nun trying to help him find redemption (played by Susan Sarandon). It’s not a normal soundtrack album, as David Robbins, who wrote the score, explains:
What makes the record so unusual is that only a few of the songs on it will end up in the final cut of the movie. Those that won’t, he says, were ”inspired” by the script and can be heard only on the companion album. ”I sent a rough cut of the film last summer to several songwriters I admire and asked if they felt inspired to write something,” says Robbins. ”Almost everyone I talked to did.”David Robbins, Entertainment Weekly
Sometimes I’m reactionary against what I think of as “NPR music” – mature and acoustic Americana songs. It’s the music that someone in my demographic (bearded, early 40s, Caucasian, university educated) is expected to like, but I don’t like to be pigeonholed. The Dead Man Walking soundtrack effectively defines this “NPR music” niche, but it’s the right fit – the weathered voices of artists like Patti Smith and Johnny Cash have the gravitas to sing songs about confronting death.
There’s a pleasing level of commitment to the project from all the artists involved. Bruce Springsteen received a Grammy nomination for his opening title track, although Mary Chapin Carpenter’s gorgeous title track (‘Dead Man Walking (A Dream Like This)’) surpasses it for my money. I find it difficult to take a full album of Johnny Cash’s baritone but he’s very effective in the one song burst of ‘In Your Mind’.
Suzanne Vega’s ‘Woman on the Tier (I’ll See You Through)’ reprises the clanging percussion of her 99.9F album, while Michelle Shocked stands out with the record’s most rock-oriented song ‘Quality of Mercy’. Tom Waits contributes two songs, while Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder and Pakistani vocalist Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan sing backup on each other’s tracks.
More of a companion album than a soundtrack, Dead Man Walking gets some great new songs out of some musical legends.