Daniel Lanois

Sling Blade

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If you ever needed a convenient definition of the term "mood music," the soundtrack to Billy Bob Thornton's 1996 film Sling Blade fits the bill nicely. Much like the movie itself, the music has a spare, haunting quality that will either appeal to you or leave you in a stupor depending on your state of mind. The opening track, "Asylum," sets the tone for the entire album: As synthesizers buzz in the background, a lone guitar wails away like a voice crying out in the wilderness. The overall feeling is one of isolation, of being lost in a strange place, surrounded by an invisible wall of unfamiliar sounds. In other words, this is not the disc to put on while entertaining guests. But if you're home alone and looking for some unintrusive music to listen to while you read/do your taxes/contemplate life, this album certainly comes in handy. Daniel Lanois composed much of the movie's music, "Asylum" included, and his tunes are definitely the pick of the soundtrack. With their deliberate rhythms and slow (some might say endless) pace, tracks like "Asylum," "Jimmy Was," and "Secret Place" actually seem to transport you into the movie's setting, the woods and back roads of the Deep South. Another standout is Lanois' version of the old Appalachian song "Shenandoah," featuring Emmylou Harris on vocals. Be forewarned, though: if you're in the least bit tired, this song is a potent lullaby. And therein lies the dilemma of the entire album: It can easily entrance you, but it can just as easily put you too sleep. Despite Lanois' considerable talents, his songs tend to run together. Every two or three tracks another artist is tossed in for variety; Tim Gibbons growls a decent song called "Lonely One" and Bambi Lee Savage contributes the sweet, but piffling tune "Darlin'," but these diversions can contribute to the tedium, rather than relieve it. It would be perfectly understandable for the typical listener to get fed up and turn the stereo off after the first few songs. But those who choose to stick with the album will be rewarded by two great closing tracks. The first is "Smothered in Hugs" by Local H, a fast-paced rock song that chase away whatever sleepiness might have been caused by previous tracks. Even better is the final song, "The Maker" by Lanois again, which combines the dreamy rhythms of his earlier tracks with a faster beat (don't pay too much attention to the silly lyrics, however). Having "Asylum" and "The Maker" as bookends makes it a little easier to overlook the weaker aspects of Sling Blade.

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