Cinephile: American Country Experiences a Renaissance at the Movies
When I was a kid, the radio stations local to my Appalachian hamlet frequently intermingled nineties pop and rock with country ballads — the latest from the likes of Tim McGraw, Faith Hill and the Dixie Chicks. Since the region’s unofficial mantra was John Denver’s "Take Me Home, Country Roads," this was hardly surprising.
Remarkably, film promoted greater awareness of lesser-known American country subgenres and close neighbors in recent years due to well-curated soundtracks. This is largely due to the efforts of super-producer, songwriter and musician T-Bone Burnett: after his major success producing the music to the Coen Brothers film O Brother Where Art Thou?(2000) — he also helped with music for The Big Lebowski(1998) — Burnett has contributed to several films including the recent Hunger Games(2012), whose Appalachian folk sound was inspired by the coal-mining culture of District 12.
Below, I’ve compiled a Spotify Playlist of recent films advocating for country from O Brother Where Art Thou to Walk the Line(2005), as well as a list of individual songs from each film you should give a listen if you don’t have time to peruse all 108. If nothing else (and if you’re not curious to hear Jeff Bridges, John Hawkes, Joaquin Phoenix and Resse Witherspoon sing), listen to Dickon Hinchcliff’s composition “Hardscrabble Elegy,” which my sister and I cannot stop playing over and over.
1) O Brother Where Art Thou?
“I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow” by The Soggy Bottom Boys
“Hard Time Killing Floor Blues” byChris Thomas King
2) Winter’s Bone (2010)
“Man on the Run” byBilly Ward
“Hardscrabble Elegy” byDickon Hinchcliff
3) Crazy Heart (2009)
“Searching (For Someone Like You)” byKitty Wells
“Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way” byWaylon Jennings
“Reflecting Light” bySam Phillips
“The Weary Kind” (Theme from Crazy Heart) byRyan Bingham
4) The Hunger Games
“Tomorrow Will Be Kinder” byThe Secret Sisters
“Safe & Sound” by Taylor Swift and The Civil Wars
“Dark Days” by Punch Brothers
5) Cold Mountain (2003)
“Never Far Away” Jack White
6) Walk The Line
“I Walk the Line” Joaquin Phoenix
“That’s All Right” Tyler Hilton