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  Big Bad Love motion picture soundtrack
Various artists with original songs by Tom Waits
Label: Nonesuch 79637-2
Length: 12 tracks, 50 minutes

Big Bad Love stars real-life husband and wife Arliss Howard and Debra Winger plus Rosanna Arquette, Paul Le Mat, Michael Parks, Alex Van and Angie Dickinson. Howard also directed the film and Winger produced it. It's based on short stories by Larry Brown and concerns a writer living in Mississippi who is divorced from his wife and children. The twelve tracks on the soundtrack CD deal with the slow, languid life of the Delta and of someone who misses their loved one very much. They are chosen to show love, love lost and the search for love.

The songs by Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan are by far the best on the soundtrack. His deep, gravelly voice gives emphasis to the lyrics of “Long Way Home.” There is a precision here, as though the singer knows he is lost but still has inner strength. “I stumbled in the darkness, lost and alone” and then “forgive me, pretty baby, but I always take the long way home” tells us that this person will always find the hard way back. Jayne's “Blue Wish” is the last track with poetic words, “chimney smoke ties the roof to the sky” and “the light of those I love.” This selection has a trumpet solo by Nic Phelps in the middle adding a New Orleans touch.

A unique spiritual combines guitarist Tom Verlaine and the Kronos String Quartet. This is a lush composition by Verlaine that is simultaneously wondering, thoughtful and ethereal. The guitar rides atop the strings like the moon on a bank of clouds.

Big Bad Love opens with “Boxcar Blues” with Kenny Brown on guitar. He plays it like it's 10 p.m. and the night is still young. “I Love You,” recorded in 1994 in Chulahoma, Mississippi, has Asie Payton on vocals and guitar and Sam Carr on drums. R. L. Burnside's “Come On In” is lively with a catchy melody. “If I can't come in, let me lay in front of your door” is love laying it on the line. 

“My Baby's Gone” by Robert Belfour and Bryan Barry tells of a lost love. “My baby's gone and left me and I wonder where can she be?”  Tom Verlaine's “Sleepwalkin'” with Verlaine, Patrick A. Derivaz and Bill Ficca has an uplifting resonant guitar imitating someone struttin' down the street. Here, Bob Dylan's song, “Everything Is Broken,” has a group of musicians including two guitar solos by Buddy Guy and Derek Trucks. “broken places, all is broken, people bending broken rules.” I recognize the sturdy Hammond organ here that often accompanies a blues or rock band. This standby is never out of style.

The two selections I quibble with are Steve Earle's “Goodbye” and James Ford's “She Asked Me So I Told Her” have hard-to-understand lyrics. Big Bad Love is certainly an above-average soundtrack, especially with the touch of class known as the Kronos Quartet among a good mix of artists. The entire CD flows. Pass me a glass of lemonade. Enjoy.

Copyright 2002 Marie Asner
Submitted 4/30/02



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