Carter Burwell

True Grit

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Carter Burwell's score for Joel & Ethan Coen's cinematic version of Charles Portis' novel True Grit (they consciously decided to ignore the original Oscar-winning film because they considered it a bore) is rooted in the world view of its main character, the outrageously self-righteous Mattie Ross (played by Hailee Steinfeld). Burwell used classic Protestant hymns as inspirations; in some cases bits from the classic hymns themselves -- “Hold to God’s Unchanging Hand” (by Franklin L. Eiland), “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” (by Charles Converse), “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” (by Elisha A. Hoffman & Anthony J. Showalter), “Talk About Suffering” (Traditional), and “The Glory-Land Way” (by J.S. Torbett) -- for his cues. These pieces in particular, from the opening theme, "The Wicked Flee," "A Methodist and a Son of a Bitch," and "I Will Carry You," all begin simply, lyrically, almost reverentially before giving way to grander pieces of music that reflect the land and history. More dramatic cues, from the brooding "The Turkey Shoot" and the intense bombast of the orchestra and snare drum corps in "Taken Hostage," to the taut, suffocatingly close drama in "Snake Pit" that transforms itself into something far more pastoral, are very effective not only as narrative cinematic devices, but as music that tells its own story by its evocation and equivocation with Americana. Of the 14 collaborations between the Coens and Burwell, this is among the most unique and satisfying for its enfolding of historic music into modern composition. [Digital downloads of the recording from Nonesuch's online store include a bonus track: Iris DeMent singing “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” which plays during the film’s closing credits.]

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