'Dead Man' Soundtrack Has a Stark, Brooding Feel

By Kening, Dan | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), January 19, 1996 | Go to article overview

'Dead Man' Soundtrack Has a Stark, Brooding Feel


Kening, Dan, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Dan Kening Daily Herald Music Critic

Various Artists "Music From and Inspired By the Motion Picture 'Dead Man Walking'" (Columbia) * * * 1/2

The year has barely begun and already we have a strong candidate here for "Soundtrack Album of the Year" honors. Actor/director Tim Robbins asked some of his favorite artists to contribute songs for his gritty prison drama about a nun (played by Robbins' wife, Susan Sarandon) and her relationship with a convicted murderer on death row (Sean Penn), and most of them came through with the goods.

Many of the songs have a stark, brooding feel to them and none more so than the title song written by Bruce Springsteen and similar to the songs on his equally stark "The Ghost of Tom Joad" album.

Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder ought to raise a few eyebrows with his two contributions, both unlikely collaborations with Pakistani singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan in which these two disparate artists find some surprising common ground. Steve Earle, who knows a thing or two about life in jail, appears on Johnny Cash's "In Your Mind" and contributes his own excellent "Ellis Unit One," while gravel-throated Tom Waits offers up a pair of his typically gritty tunes. Mary Chapin Carpenter's "Dead Man Walking (A Dream Like This)" and Lyle Lovett's "Promises" are typically incisive, while long-lost punk rock goddess Patti Smith's contribution, "Walkin' Blind," is reason enough in itself to buy the album.

A portion of the album's proceeds will be donated to the organizations Murder Victims Families For Reconciliation and Hope House, making the "Dead Man Walking" soundtrack an even more attractive proposition.

Mike Henderson "Edge of Night" (Dead Reckoning) * * *

Nashville guitarist and songwriter Mike Henderson stepped out of his sideman persona in 1994 when he released the critically-acclaimed album "Country Music Made Me Do It." The album combined elements of blues, honky-tonk country and rock, all tied together by his authoritative vocals and bluesy slide guitar work. "Edge of Night" presents more of the same, with a bit more emphasis on Henderson's growling six-string bass and cutting slide guitar.

Henderson is an excellent songwriter, and one capable of writing in a variety of styles. Here his soulful ballad "The Edge of Night" recalls vintage John Hiatt, while his Waylon Jennings tribute, "Honky Tonk Vacation," perfectly conjures up the sound of one of Henderson's heroes. …

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