HoneydripperJohn Sayles has always been regarded as an independent filmmaker. But like a few others, Jim Jarmusch and Lars van Trier, to name a few, Sayles can pull in big names to his modestly-budgeted independent character pieces. With his newest, Honeydripper, Danny Glover is the big name in play. But his supporting cast is just as important, and with this film specifically, the music comes in as a supporting cast member in itself. 

As Sayles says in the liner notes of the album, “American music has always had the ability to absorb and transform different traditions, to dig into the past and deal with the present, to constantly reinvent itself.” Though this statement could arguably apply to Sayles himself as well, it’s an interesting observation, and especially appropriate for the time period that Honeydripper is examining: the ’50s.

Opening with the jazzy, swinging “Honeydripper Lounge” and the bluesy, harmonica-led “Tall Cotton” listeners may be preparing themselves for a completely instrumental album, but Mable John’s “No Matter How She Done It” breaks that flow, and in a very good way. With her rich soulful vocals and winking-at-the-audience lyrics, it’s a crowd-pleaser from yesteryear. The entire album offers such a mix of blues, swing, gospel, and country (much like the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack), that listeners from all audiences will find something to enjoy.

If Memphis Slim’s dirgeful “Bertha May” and Hank William’s 1947 hit “Move it On Over” can coexist on a single album, along with three swinging almost-rock tracks by Gary Clark, Jr. without feeling off-balance, it’s obvious something’s been done right. The included tracks by Clark Jr. best manage to encapsulate the era of music, blending the newer rock style with older swing. The New Beginning Ministry offers a few moving gospel tuens with “Standing By the Highway” and “You Got To Choose” securely rooting the album in the Southern tradition. But the surprising hit here is Danny Glover (backed up by Scott Leyland on piano) crooning the James Oden penned “Goin’ Down Slow.” It’s the kind of track that seamlessly blends soundtrack and film, tying the two together and enhancing them both.

Zach’s Rating: A-
Perfect For: Anyone who enjoys a solid southern flair
Stay Away if: The ’50s are over and so is the swinging style
Buy this on Itunes: “Goin’ Down Slow” – Danny Glover

To purchase the Honeydripper soundtrack, visit Amazon
For more reviews by Zach Freeman, visit HubPages

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