Outlander: Volumes 1 & 2
Music By: Bear McCreary
Songs Performed By: Raya Yarbrough
Distributed by: Madison Gate Records
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
In the hit STARZ television series based on the series of novels, Outlander, Caitriona Balfe is Claire Randall, a World War II combat nurse who somehow finds herself swept back in time to the year 1743. Thrust into the midst of a battle between the Redcoats and the Scottish Highlanders, Claire is forced to marry Scottish warrior Jamie Fraser, but the forced marriage soon becomes anything but and Claire finds herself torn between the two men in her...lives.
The musical score of Outlander was created by American composer Bear McCreary who took the composing scene by storm with his score for the new Battlestar Galactica series in 2004. He hasn't looked back since, creating musical scores for movies, television and video games, including Eureka, Dark Void, SOCOM 4, The Cape, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Rest Stop, Wrong Turn, Europa Report, Defiance, Black Sails, Knights of Badassdom, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Da Vinci's Demons and more.
In February 2015, Madison Gate Records released Outlander: Volume 1, a soundtrack featuring the songs and musical score of the first eight episodes of the television series' first season. Outlander: Volume 2, featuring songs and musical score of the series with an emphasis on the last eight episodes of the first season, was released in September 2015. I had the opportunity to listen to both volumes.
For the music of Outlander, Bear McCreary used songs from the Jacobite uprising time period in Scotland. According to McCreary: "...toward the end of high school, I began researching folk songs of the Jacobite uprising. I was awestruck by their ability to communicate tales of tragedy and triumph through lyrics with double meaning, woven along deceptively simple melodic lines and evocative harmonic progressions...From the beginning, I wanted to draw predominantly from Scottish instrumentation and folk music. Instruments such as the fiddle, bagpipes, accordion, penny whistle and bodhrán (a type of frame drum) form the backbone of the score, supported by orchestral strings, haunting vocals and larger percussion."
The main theme song, The Skye Boat Song, features beautifully haunting lyrics performed by McCreary's wife Raya Yarbrough. The use of bagpipes and fiddles offer up a Celtic feel to the soundtrack that speaks to the show's locale. The percussion highlights the dramatic action and moments of danger the main characters find themselves facing. The second volume of Outlander music contains less dramatic percussion except during the Charge of the Highland Cattle. The vocals are still as haunting as in the first volume, especially in the track The Summoning, but there are some fun moments, such as in the track Wool Waulking Songs.
I love Celtic music and Bear McCreary has a flare for creating soundtracks with a Celtic feel. I loved his use of authentic Scottish folk songs and his use of authentic instrumentation to recreate the feel of the Highlands. Outlander: Volumes 1 and 2 are excellent soundtracks that will appeal to both fans of the show and fans of Celtic music like myself.