Soundtrack Review: TRUE GRIT

Allison Loring

by: Allison Loring
December 21st, 2010

Rating: 3.5/5

Jeff Bridges, Carter Burwell, and the Coen brothers? The real question going into TRUE GRIT was what I was NOT going to like about it. I started previewing the soundtrack prior to seeing the film, as Paramount Pictures has it streaming live via their website (check it out HERE) and I instantly started enjoying the piano-infused score.

Composer Carter Burwell (TWILIGHT, THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT) has created many beautiful piano based scores, so it is no surprise to see him using it here, but it is an instrument not often associated with Westerns. This is the first of many Coen style nods that suggest TRUE GRIT may be a fully fleshed-out Western unto itself, but there are hints of something slightly different as we embark on this particular journey.

The old-timey piano refrain we pick up in the first track, “The Wicked Flee,” helps set the time period and continues on through “Father’s Gun” and “Little Blackie.” Plus, I dare you to listen to “Your Headstrong Ways” and not start smiling or tapping your feet.

This is not Burwell’s first time working with the Coen brothers, as he also created the score for FARGO, BURN AFTER READING, and NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. There is almost a sense of play to Burwell’s score this time around and, even when things start to take a turn to the slightly ominous, with tracks such as “A Methodist and a Son Of A Bitch,” they are immediately followed by a refreshing track, like “Talking To Horses.” It is this back and forth that really defines the feel of TRUE GRIT – bad things happen, but they almost always have the wind taken out of them before anyone can really feel too down on their luck.

“Talk About Suffering” embodies this idea perfectly as it is a song with the word suffering in the title but still has a sweeping sense of hopefulness to it. Even “Taken Hostage” makes you feel that whoever has been taken will quickly have the upper hand once again and then probably lose it once more in the next moment. “River Crossing” is a triumphant and classically styled track and was one of my favorite on the collection. It is an appropriate cue to signal that our adventure is beginning and, if you had to choose one track out of the bunch to sum up the film, I would nominate this piece.

The only track not composed by Burwell, “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” is performed by country-folk singer Iris DeMent and ends the film (and soundtrack) on an appropriate grassroots note, reinforcing yet again the idea that if something unfavorable happens, you simply go out and make it right and if you are lucky, you will come across people who will help you along the way.

I really enjoyed myself while watching the film and had a good feeling I would when I found myself wholeheartedly enjoying the soundtrack on first listen. Burwell’s collection spans all the emotion and moments of TRUE GRIT, while somehow not taking itself too seriously.

This soundtrack is available through Nonesuch Records.

1. “The Wicked Flee”
2. “La Boeuf Takes Leave”
3. “Little Blackie”
4. “River Crossing”
5. “The Hanging Man”
6. “Talk About Suffering”
7. “Your Headstrong Ways”
8. “A Great Adventure”
9. “We Don’t Need Him Do We?”
10. “Father’s Gun”
11. “A Methodist and a Son of a Bitch”
12. “Talking To Horses”
13. “A Turkey Shoot”
14. “Taken Hostage”
15. “One Against Four”
16. “The Snake Pit”
17. “Ride to Death”
18. “I Will Carry You”
19. “A Quarter Century”
20. “The Grave”
21. “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” – performed by Iris DeMent (digital bonus track)

All songs on this soundtrack composed by Carter Burwell.

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  • Ron

    I just downloaded the soundtrack from iTunes.But there are only 21 tracks where on the Paramount website there are 27 tracks. What’s up with that?

    • allisonloring

      I noticed that too! I have a feeling the Paramount website pulled together all Burwell’s composed pieces (which is why there are many that are only a few seconds long) used in the film whereas the soundtrack focused on just a selection of the tracks.

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