Walk The Line

Original Soundtrack

Wind-Up, 2005

REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck


OK, it' 1:10 on a night when I really should be getting some sleep for classes tomorrow. Am I studying? Hell no. Talking with friends? Strike two. No, I find myself here listening to two actors reinterpret old country standards by two of the genre's most influential artists.

It was just recently that I finally got around to seeing Walk The Line, the Johnny Cash biopic that came out a few months ago. And you know what, I'm kicking myself for waiting so long. Much like my first viewing of Ray, the movie has opened my eyes to music I would never have given a chance otherwise. The difference here is that with Ray I really enjoyed the music; with Walk The Line I love it.

Let the record show that up until the movie and soundtrack, my exposure to Johnny Cash was extremely limited. He was a name floating around, with songs like "A Boy Named Sue." Nothing too enticing, really. However, since the movie, not only did I race back home to download the soundtrack from iTunes, but I managed to borrow American Recordings and Unearthed from a friend. Listen is the wrong word to describe what I've been doing with them; devour is much more appropriate.

Ray was a collection of Charles' actual recordings, which Jamie Foxx lip-synced to during the movie. For Walk The Line, Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix actually performed their vocals live. I knew this going in, but when I walked out of that theater I had been absolutely blown away. Phoenix and Witherspoon channeled Cash and Carter; there's no other explanation for it. Hardcore fans would be able to tell the difference, but to a person like me, it was as if Cash was performing in the movie itself.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

This connection is even stronger on the actual soundtrack; Phoenix somehow managed to capture Cash's vocal inflections and mannerisms during "I Walk The Line," and "Ring of Fire," to the point where I was convinced the Man in Black was singing. Witherspoon does a tremendous job as well, though I could hear the "Legally Blond" chick lurking. I didn't care though, because just as Phoenix, Witherspoon becomes June Carter. Listening to the duets of "It Ain't Me Babe" and "Jackson" are the highlights of the album for me.

Just like Ray, the amazing quality of the tracks stunned me. In fact, these songs spoke to me more than anything off Ray. The emotions and feelings expressed are dark, yet can lift you up. I see "Ring Of Fire," as perseverance, holding true to your love. "Wildwood Flower" has some gorgeous lyrics that just rip through to your core with the perfect imagery; "He's gone and neglected this pale wildwood flow'r."

In other reviews, I've mentioned my dislike for country music as a genre. It has never appealed to me, and I didn't expect it to. However, I can actually say that Walk The Line has changed my thinking. Songs like "Jukebox Blues," if you look at them, are corny. But for once, I bought into the "fun" aspect. I just sat back and enjoyed the ride. This is a different kind of country music than what I hear on the radio today. Guess I was just a few decades late.

This all being said, Walk The Line has one glaring weakness; the Elvis Presley/Jerry Lee Lewis etc. songs. First of, these performances did not capture the spirit of the artists as did the ones performed by Phoenix and Witherspoon. That is not to say the songs are bad, but they ruin the flow of the album. There were so many great performances left off the record, like the duet "Time's A Wastin'". I'd much rather have heard that song then "Lewis Boogie." This movie wasn't about Elvis or Lewis, and so it detracts from the focus of the album itself.

It's now 1:39, and here I am finishing a review to what I consider the best non-orchestral soundtrack I have had the privilege of listening to. Others who buy this soundtrack might see it as a series of covers that don't equate the originals. I probably couldn't argue with that, but that's not the point. What this disc has done for me is more than just entertainment. I've sat here listening to the music of Johnny Cash, feeling the pain of "Hurt," rejoicing in "Do Lord." I've sat here listening to one man with a guitar captivating me in a way which very few artists can do for me.

Yes, it is actors performing, and there are a few covers I find to be useless. But that doesn't change a thing. For me, Walk The Line has proven to be greater than the sum of its parts.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2006 Jeff Clutterbuck and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Wind-Up, and is used for informational purposes only.