Robert Mitchum's 1958 film Thunder Road created a bigger footprint on pop culture consciousness than its box office success suggests. Certainly, in the last quarter of the 20th century the name "Thunder Road" was associated with Bruce Springsteen, who appropriated the title for his 1975 epic, but the bootlegger saga was popular in the South for years, playing drive-ins and midnight movies into the '80s. Bear Family's expanded version of the soundtrack touches upon that legacy through a variety of covers of "The Ballad of Thunder Road" and "The Whippoorwill," which Keely Smith sang in the film. These covers, which include hotshot guitarist Travis Wammack and Jim & Jesse along with rockabilly singer Sleepy LaBeef and Mitchum himself, perhaps capture the rebel spirit of the film better than Jack Marshall's score. Marshall does have some of the breakneck bluegrass often associated with movie bootleggers. Notably, there is no rock & roll but there are some jumping jazz overtones that intermingle with the syrupy moments of the score, both evoking the saturated black-and-white cinematic landscapes of the late '50s. That filmic quality is appealing, but the real fun on the compilation comes in the ephemera at the end of the disc along with the pictures, text, and memorabilia that come in the generous booklet.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine