|4.||Wedding Dance (Thomas Bartlett)||1:17|
|5.||Flying Tent / 4Plus4 (Keith Murphy)||8:58|
|6.||The Only One (Assembly)||0:57|
|7.||McFadden's Handsome Daughter (trad.)||0:57|
|10.||Paddy's Return / Humors of Tulla (trad.)||1:14|
|11.||Moon Sight (Thomas Bartlett)||1:23|
|12.||Breeze on the Charles||2:34|
|13.||Becalmed (Thomas Bartlett)||1:03|
|14.||No Legs (Assembly)||1:09|
|16.||More Than a Wave (Assembly)||3:57|
|18.||The Dark Dawn||0:45|
|20.||American Wake (reprise)||0:59|
|Total Album Time:||45:37|
|by Jonathan Jarry
February 27, 2007
There is something to be said about the underdog. In today's soundtrack market, which is flooded by seemingly limitless releases from both big and small venues, it is almost impossible for an indie score to get much attention other than from word of mouth. The latest Horner, Williams, or Elfman release tends to overshadow the underdog. American Wake could be destined to the music store's bargain bin, where items that don't sell are let go of cheap, but here I am hoping it won't and that other film music websites will jump in on the Irish bandwagon to promote it. Maybe I'm crazy.
The movie itself, which has been shown on the indie festival circuit, is the story of Irish sons trying to juggle their father's expectations with their own needs. The official website for the movie taught me that an American wake was a party held on the eve of an Irish immigrant's journey to the United States as a way to say goodbye to old customs and prepare oneself to celebrate a new way of life. The soundtrack album is a quiet, introspective, and respectfully Irish tapestry combining traditional Irish dances with delicate score cues to leave the characters pondering on life choices.
The traditional dances are usually short, such as the fiddle-led "Wedding Dance" and the fiddle and banjo duet of "McFadden's Handsome Daughter". The lengthiest cue on the album, clocking in at nine minutes, is the fast-paced Irish dance of "Flying Tent/4Plus4", a catchy tune for the fiddle full of virtuosic grace notes and accompanied by banjo and snare drum. The piano subtly joins the rhythmic Celtic dancing until it steals the spotlight away from the fiddle for the 4Plus4 segment.
The instrumental score pieces are credited to Seamus Egan, Thomas Bartlett, and the band Assembly. Their quiet style rooted in traditional Irish instrumentation reminded of Jeff Danna's score to Uncorked but stripped bare. It is dialogue music, unobtrusive, yet interesting on its own. The best of the lot is probably "More Than a Wave" which, given its length, is allowed to strut its ideas and make them progress and bloom. Its guitar progressions are reminiscent of "Snuffy" Walden's more tranquil guitar solos as opposed to his more virtuosic pieces, and the high pitches on the piano add just the right texture without sounding cheesy. A hushed fiddle laments over held notes near the end, providing a slight Celtic color to the piece, while a male singer can be heard softly harmonizing in the background.
The album concludes with a song entitled "Enough Tears", which was a tad too folksy and sentimental for my tastes but which is in keeping with the sonic atmosphere permeating American Wake. I thought the earlier song, "Hold On", with its peaceful, Sarah-McLachlanesque vocals and slight country tinge, worked better: maybe it has to do with the tired, radio-friendly, almost kitschy drum beat in "Enough Tears", I'm not sure. Regardless, American Wake is of that rare breed of hushed and peaceful soundtracks that do work on their own. While most "dialogue music" lacks listenability when plucked out of context, Assembly's score cues are easy to like and set a relaxing mood without overdoing the Irish textures. American Wake is for anyone with a taste in Irish music, how ever mild, and for those looking for a little indie gem that adroitly mixes Thomas Newman's and Jeff Danna's trademark styles, for those looking for something other than the latest Horner, Williams, or Elfman.
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