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Around Our Town...Music to My Ears

Elizabethtown: Music From The Motion Picture

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11/01/2005 - There are moments in life that mandate the presence of the perfect song or music. It works the other way, too. A certain song may be playing, and whatever is happening at that precise moment seems to fit the music we are hearing. Once that happens, we will listen to that same music repeatedly throughout the remainder of our lives, trying to recapture the moment. Or we will avoid hearing a song in fear of recapturing that moment, right?

Do you remember what song marked your first date, the first time you got dumped, or an endless Saturday night out cruising with your friends? How about your wedding, or the day the closest person to you died? Was it a mistake to mention those last two life events in the same sentence? Sorry. You see, the point is, we all have a soundtrack that fits our lives, that provides a backdrop, or accentuation of situational slices and emotional stops in our journey. How many times have you heard a song and been instantly placed somewhere in your past? It happens to me all the time.

My wife and I recently went to see the movie "Elizabethtown." About fifteen minutes in, I leaned over and whispered (That's right, whispered. I'm not a loud-movie-talker, and I'm sure you're not either.) to my wife that if there was a soundtrack to the movie, that I would buy it the next day. There was, and I did. Fifteen minutes. That's how long it took director Cameron Crowe to get the hook in my mouth and reel me in. Actually, it was Nancy Wilson (remember her and her sister's band, Heart? Vaguely?). She was responsible for putting the "Elizabethtown" soundtrack together just as she was for another Cameron Crowe triumph, "Almost Famous."

Nancy hit it out of the park with this one. It's very close to perfect. Collectively, the songs are an intimate, immediate, acoustic-based quilt draped comfortably over a quirky, emotional, gently humourous, and quietly romantic story set in the small-town south. Individually, every song stands alone. The selection is mildly eclectic, ranging from from familiar album rockers like Tom Petty, Elton John, and Lindsey Buckingham to relatively new hipsters such as Helen Stellar, Ryan Adams, My Morning Jacket, and Wheat. There are also some folkies, like Patty Griffin, and eastmountainsouth.

At it's best, a soundtrack can carry the film, helping the viewer to experience emotion and get drawn into the movie on a level that approaches magic. A few examples come to mind. How about Forrest Gump, American Graffitti, Oh! Brother Where Art Thou, or Cold Mountain? Wanna have some fun? Let's think of some that totally stunk! Umm, Let's see. Ghostbusters? Beverly Hills Cop? Wait. How about every eighties comedy? St. Elmo's Fire? Ugh. I just did one of those involuntary shiver deals. Anyhoooooo...

The "Elizabethtown" soundtrack did it for me, but it was almost too good. There were times when I found myself paying more attention to the music than what was happening on the screen. I also noticed that I was impatiently waiting for the next song to come along, and every time, Nancy got it right. The perfect song. Turns out she made a mix disc for us. It's good for driving, hanging out, or listening to seriously, for meaning. Oh, by the way, I thought the movie was pretty good, too.

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