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Various Artists - "The Ladykillers" Soundtrack Print E-mail
Tuesday, 23 March 2004

Various Artists

The Ladykillers: Music From The Motion Picture
format: 16-bit Stereo CD
label: DMZ/Columbia/Sony Music Soundtrax
release year: 2004
performance: 9
sound 9
reviewed by: Dan MacIntosh

Image T Bone Burnett has gone from being one of the music business’s hippest producers to becoming one of its greatest traditional music ambassadors. He’s also proven that soundtrack albums can be important artistic statements, just like the films themselves. His winning streak began with the breakthrough country soundtrack “O Brother Where Art Thou?,” and continued nicely with the folk-country of “Cold Mountain.” Now he incorporates black gospel into his palate with “The Ladykillers” soundtrack. For “The Ladykillers,” Burnett is once again reunited with the Coen Brothers (who produced “O Brother”), so these respected filmmakers also deserve a lot of credit for giving Burnett the freedom to create such meaningful movie music albums.

“The Ladykillers” soundtrack includes a few old gospel recordings, a smattering of updated gospel choir tracks and a number of original gospel-rap (for lack of a better term) creations. Sam Cooke is fondly remembered as one of soul music’s first big superstars, but his gospel quartet work with the Soul Stirrers is equally memorable. He and his fellow singers are heard singing “Come, Let Us Go Back To God,” “Jesus I’ll Never Forget” and “Any Day Now.” Bill Landford & The Landfordaires also contribute “Trouble of This World” and “Troubled, Lord I’m Troubled” to this release. (As you can probably see right away, trouble is a big, big theme on this particular album.) In contrast to these previously mentioned smooth soul chestnuts, Blind Willie Johnson’s frightening croak is heard loud and clear on “Let Your Light Shine On Me.” Donnie McClurkin’s version of “Come, Let’s Go Back To God” is a modern interpretation of that older song, and only its drum, piano -- and especially its electric guitar solo -- give it away as something that is in fact contemporary.

There’s also a large dosage of rap on this release. And since this is primarily spiritual rap, it’s also a whole lot cleaner than most of the gangsta stuff currently flooding the marketplace. Nappy Roots provides dark commentary on society with tracks like “Trouble of This World,” “Another Day, Another Dollar” and “Trouble In, Trouble Out.” Nappy Roots’ contribution argues convincingly for rap music’s rightful place as today’s legitimate blues voice.

Tracks like “Let Your Light Shine On Me” by The Venice Four with Rose Stone and The Abbot Kinney Lighthouse Choir give this album its church, hand-clapping lack gospel feel. Nicest of all perhaps is “Yes,” which closes the album on a loose-sounding bit of choir testifying.

Perhaps most important of all, this project presents the thread that has flowed through gospel music since its inception: From Blind Willie Johnson’s harsh blues on up to Nappy Roots blunt social statements, this music’s message of hope and light – which remains strong even in the darkest of times – comes through loud and clear. Brother T Bone, thou hast done it again!

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