Jeff Beal

Appaloosa [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]

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The Western film genre, once extremely popular, has become an infrequent visitor to multiplexes in the U.S., but actor Ed Harris attempted to bring it back by not only starring in, but also directing and co-writing the screenplay for an adaptation of Robert B. Parker's novel +Appaloosa in 2008. Composer Jeff Beal, who worked with Harris on his previous directorial effort, Pollock, attempts with his score to do the same thing musically that Harris was trying in his multiple jobs, to be true to the genre and yet come up with something a little different. Certainly, right from the start of Beal's "Appaloosa Main Title," he has captured the familiar musical sound of a Western, not as expansive as, say, Dimitri Tiomkin's approach, but not as melodramatic as Ennio Morricone, either. The restraint Beal achieves comes in part from his chosen instrumentation, in which he combines a small band of folk instruments -- guitar, banjo, dulcimer, etc. -- with a small all-strings orchestra of violins, violas, cellos, and basses, as his own lonely trumpet playing comes in and out. He also introduces the occasional exotic flavor, such as in "Allison French," the theme for the character played by Renée Zellweger, which is a sort of Oriental waltz. Unfortunately, Harris couldn't stop at acting, directing, and screenwriting, and he added lyricist and singer to his credits with "You'll Never Leave My Heart." He should keep his day job(s). ~ William Ruhlmann, Rovi