Music By: Various Artists

Distributed by: Lakeshore Records

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


            Loosely based on the events surrounding the 1996 murder of an elderly millionaire by her employed companion in Carthage, Texas, the dramedy Bernie stars Jack Black as Bernie Tiede.  Bernie was an assistant funeral director with strong ties to the local church who befriended millionaire widow Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine).  The two became inseparable with Bernie handling Marjorie's bank accounts and accompanying her while traveling.  When townsfolk realize they haven't seen Marjorie in a while, they discover that she is dead.  To their shock, Bernie Tiede is charged with her murder.

            The music on the Bernie Soundtrack features songs by various artists, including Jack Black, Dale Watson, Haybale!, Mitote, Miss Leslie and James Baker, with musical score from Graham Reynolds.  Based in Austin, Texas, Graham Reynolds is a composer and bandleader who creates, performs and records music for film, theater, dance clubs, concert halls and more.  As bandleader of the jazz band Golden Arm Trio, he has toured the country and released four critically acclaimed albums.  As Co-Artistic Director of Golden Hornet Project, he has produced more than fifty concerts of world-premier alt-classical music.  Called "the quintessential modern composer" by the London Independent, Reynolds has composed musical scores for a number of films including A Scanner Darkly, I'll Come Running and Holy Hell.

            In creating the music for Bernie, Graham Reynolds had a very specific approach in mind: "I tried to weave one sound world while working with three distinct elements: songs with Jack Black, score featuring a string quartet, and Austin country music.  Themes from old hymns weave their way into all three and each palette feeds the other."  Thus, the music on the Bernie Soundtrack is quite interesting and somewhat fun - not exactly what I would expect to find on the soundtrack of a movie based on a real murder...but then, one doesn't expect a movie based on such a topic to be a dramedy either.

            The first track on the album features one of the most uplifting songs performed by Jack Black.  Love Lifted Me is a gospel track that discusses how God's love brought the singer back from the brink and showed him a new and better path.  I really enjoyed this track.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered that Jack Black was the singer.  I know he has performed in other movies before, but I never found his singing very enjoyable until this track.  Go figure!  Of course, he dashed my hopes for his talent by thoroughly destroying another favorite, Beautiful Dreamer, a couple of tracks later.  And it came right after a fun, catchy country track by Dale Watson called What Ever Happened to Sam.  I laughed heartily during Heybale!'s rendition of Everything...About Drinkin', a country song in which the singer lets us know that he doesn't have much talent, but there is one thing that he does really well.  Can you guess that talent from the title?  I also enjoyed I Can Get Over You, another country song performed by Miss Leslie that is featured later on the album.

            Graham Reynolds' musical score features quite a variety of genres, from light music one might expect to hear in an elevator (Always First Class) to exotic music (Eee-gypt) to country (Folding Underwear) to classical (Armadillo Gun).  With each track of musical score, you are left wondering what might have happened in the scene it was written for.  Quite an interesting and eclectic score to say the least. 

            The e e e Bernie Soundtrack was an interesting and rather fun experience.  Not having seen the movie, I'm not sure how well the score went with the movie, but believe that the song selection was perfect.  As a standalone album, I'm not quite sure others would find it as enjoyable as I did.  Fans of country music should really enjoy some of the songs, but I don't know if that's enough to warrant dishing out the $17.00 for the CD version of the album.  Perhaps this is one of those soundtracks that will see better success in the mp3 download category.


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