Black Snake Moan, the 2007 movie that stars Samuel L. Jackson as a God-fearing, bent broken soul and tortured former bluesman, with Christina Ricci playing the town tramp he feels he has to redeem by any means necessary, is a wildly provocative look at spiritual and cultural mores -- and is sure to set some folks on edge. The soundtrack that accompanies it on the other hand, is a pure shimmy-shaking blues extravaganza. The film is dedicated to the memory of R.L. Burnside. His digital ghost performs "Old Black Mattie" here, and his tune "Just Like a Bird Without a Feather," is covered by Jackson with Burnside's adopted son and sideman Kenny Brown. There are also cuts here by the Black Keys, Jessie Mae Hemphill, Scott Bomar the soundtrack's producer, John Doe, Outrageous Cherry (covering Junior Kimbrough no less), Bobby Rush, Precious Bryant and the North Mississippi Allstars. Sure, musically this is a mixed -- but mostly satisfactory -- bag. Jackson can't sing worth a damn, but he's got the feel of the blues to be sure; it's in the grain, it's not a posture. He can tell a hell of a story too; check his spoken word intro to the title track with Jason Freeman on a killer serpentine guitar. Doe does a very spooky reading of his "The Losing Kind" here, and the Allstars kick it on the end credits like a mother. The Kimbrough cover is adequate but it doesn't fit here at all, and begs the question why the producers didn't just use Kimbrough's own music. Bomar's instrumental theses are quite beautiful; they're as deeply influenced by Ennio Morricone as they are by Ry Cooder. "Alice Mae" and "Stackolee," with Jackson singing in front of a real Mississippi juke-joint crowd, are pretty great. This is Burnside's backing band with Brown, and Cedric Burnside with Luther Dickinson. Jackson doesn't need to actually sing, he's got plenty of vibe and the band kicks ass. His history is off, though, dating the latter track to 1962, when it is as old as the blues itself, but who cares? It rocks. For the most part, these are the modern-day Delta blues rather than Robert Johnson's, though there are a couple of mean voice-overs by Son House here, and that is as it should be. The soundtrack to Black Snake Moan stands on its own as a fiery good time.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek