The story about how ex-con Glaswegian single mother country singer Rose-Lynn Harlan pursues her dreams of going to Nashville, while I have reservations about the film, which too often resorts to cliché, has one epiphany too many and features a cringeworthy scene with Bob Harris, there’s no doubting either the performance or the singing by its star, Jessie Buckley.
As such, the OST serves as her debut album, in character, featuring the songs, some covers, others original, performed in the film. Irish-born Buckley, of course, is no stranger to singing. She was runner up in I’d Do Anything, the TV show competition to find a Nancy for a new production of Oliver! and went on to appear in the West End revival of A Little Night Music. Not a country fan before she got involved in the film, it’s become a passion and she pours herself into it.
Loaded at the end, four numbers are instrumentals, three bluegrass tunes by The Bluegrass Smugglers and ‘Le Petit Chat Gris’, a fiddle and foot stomp recording by Nashville’s Hillary Klug, the rest are all Buckley.
Things kick off with a punchy full-throated cover of Primal Scream’s ‘Country Girl’ setting the theme and the musical template, immediately reinforced by an equally muscular take on Chris Stapleton’s ‘Outlaw State of Mind’. The covers, many of which tie in with the film narrative, continue with solid readings of two Emmylou Harris classics, ‘Born To Run’ and a yearning ‘Boulder To Birmingham’, Kate & Anna McGarrigle’s ‘Going Back To Harlan’ (also popularised by Harris) John Prine’s ‘Angel From Montgomery’, ‘Covered In Regret (Blue, Black & Red)’ by UK country duo Little Blue Numbers, a fiddle-driven romp through Hank Snow standard ‘I’m Movin’ On’ and a brace of gospel-country songs by Wynona Judd, a reflective acoustic picked ‘Peace In This House’ and, underpinned by a tribal bass drum pulse, ‘When I Reach The Place I’m Going’.
The remaining tracks were written in response to the storyline by Buckley herself in collaboration with Simon Johnson, the guitarist with UK Americana outfit Southern Companion (and half of Little Blue Numbers), embracing the gutsy outlaw country of ‘Robbing The Bank of Life’, the drum thump, banjo-flecked driven bluegrass stomp ‘That’s The View From Here (Famous Folk Are Weird)’, and the gentle waltzing inspirational ballad ‘Alright To Be Wrong’. The two standouts, not just of the original material but the album as a whole, are the guitar ringing twangy swagger of ‘Cigarette Row (Five O’Clock Freedom)’, which (briefly heard in the film performed by The Southern Companion and hopefully scheduled for a stand-alone EP of non-Buckley tracks in the film) deserves to have others queuing up to cover, and the film’s gradually building closing showstopper, ‘Glasgow (No Place Like Home)’, a slow swaying track that fully showcases Buckley’s immense vocal talent and gets a live recording reprise as a bonus track at the end of the album.
This is unlikely to do a Star Is Born in the charts, but when it comes to singing country, Buckley can hold her own with Lady GaGa any day.
‘Boulder To Birmingham’ – live on RTE: