This is a real gem of an album -- a big, sweeping, score using an orchestra, filled with hints and suggestions of all those bygone dusty Westerns, shot through with visions of hot nights south of the border. Composer Lee Holdridge has had quite a diverse background, which helps here, and appears to love movies, which goes a long way towards making this score work. Old Gringo is built around the end of Ambrose Bierce's life. Bierce was an acerbic journalist and writer (amongst other things, he produced The Devil's Dictionary, a sarcastic lexicon of terms that would have made Oscar Wilde applaud) who wound up, late in life, south of the border and possibly involved with Pancho Villa's army. He never returned, and nothing more is known. The book, and the movie from it, place that story in the context of two others players -- a self-exiled schoolteacher and a general in Villa's army. This gives Holdridge three themes to play with -- there are plenty of additional subthemes as well -- and he plays with them very well indeed. The experience is symphonic; the man knows how to work with an orchestral palette. It isn't all that subtle, true, but, then again, neither is the work of Ferde Grofe or, in fact, much of Copeland's frontier-influenced work -- there's that open, rangy, energy here.
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AllMusic Review by Steven McDonald