On May 19, 1903, Horatio Nelson Jackson, a 31-year-old doctor from Burlington, VT, made a 50-dollar bet that he could drive an automobile from San Francisco to New York City in less than three months. Four days later, he left California in a two-cylinder "horseless carriage" (with a top cruising speed of 30 miles per hour) and began America's first transcontinental road trip. Horatio's Drive is the soundtrack to a Ken Burns documentary on Jackson's historic cross-country jaunt and features reinterpretations of popular songs of the day ("Bill Bailey, Won't You Please Come Home"), rags ("Mississippi Rag," "Tiger Rag"), traditional pieces ("Cripple Creek," "Rovin' Gambler") and contemporary songs that fit the motif ("Back 'N' Forth in Pahrump, Nevada"), recorded by the likes of Tony Ellis, John McKuen, and Bobby Horton, as well as brief talking interludes by Tom Hanks (as the voice of Horatio) and cameos by Tom Bodett and George Plimpton. Although much of the music here becomes incidental when divorced from the visual portion of the documentary, it is bright and pleasant on its own, and there are several highlights, including Ellis' pretty banjo piece, "Straw Dolls," Todd Phillips' slowed-down take on J.P. Nestor's fiddle romp, "Train on the Island," and Bobby Horton's guitar version of Jimmie Strothers' odd "Blood-Stained Banders." In all, Horatio's Drive feels like a facsimile of the music for America's first road trip and it works as such, but there is no dust, dirt, or grit here, and one kind of wishes Burns could have licensed the old 78s for some of these songs -- scratches and all.
AllMusic Review by Steve Leggett