STRANGE BEDFELLOWS: SOUNDTRACK
Review by Brad Green:
In the film, Michael Caton and Paul Hogan play a pair of dead straight mates who, in order to put one over the tax department, have to pose as a gay couple. It’s an enterprise replete with challenges including the fact that their small outback community still harbours attitudes closer to Kingswood Country than Queer Eye For A Straight Guy. But a battle against backwoods prejudice is nothing compared to the narrow mindedness this soundtrack will have to surmount. Yes, a bush setting needs a bush-based genre of music, and if strains of homophobia stubbornly persist in these supposedly enlightened times, country-phobia continues to run rife. As ever, stereotyping remains the culprit: “It’s all the same,” they say, “three chords, redneck lyrics and an audience of truck drivers whose hearing has obviously been destroyed by countless noisy hours on the road.”
In all honesty, there’s plenty of country music I can’t abide myself, but I also recognise that it comes in many shades, and the shade most prevalent here is bluegrass -- a genre offering far more in the way of virtuosity and genuine musicianship than almost any of the usual suspects on the pop charts. In any event, the most impressive aspect of this soundtrack is that the considerable talents of composer Dale Cornelius and multi-instrumentalist Gerry Hale combine to produce music of classical refinement with a bluegrass sensibility. Cornelius impressed greatly with a beguiling score for his debut feature film commission, Till Human Voices Wake Us, and here he shows his stylistic flexibility while demonstrating the same ability to create detailed arrangements without a single note sounding superfluous.
Hale features most prominently on the raw roots songs Rye Whisky and Sally Anne, and while these are a tad hoedown for my taste, it is easy to be entertained by the simple appreciation of one man’s panoply of instrumental skills, especially his precision picking on everything from guitar to mandola. They also lay down enough basic bluegrass to allow Cornelius to bring other colours to the rest of the score. His ability to blend classical orchestration and country trademarks is no better realised than in the opening cue, where whimsical pizzicato and staccato woodwinds glide seamlessly into strummed guitars and hillbilly “yeehas”. We Just Became Gay offers a sprightly blend of blues fiddling, tasteful piano fills and playful, almost funky, rhythm section; while Mincing delves into Latin land with more than a hint of mambo about its rolled vocal “Rs” and brass stabs.
There are also a couple of covers, notably a passable rendition of Peter Allen’s I Go To Rio, and the album’s suavest moment, a world class version of Cole Porter’s Looking At You with stunning vocals by Di Faulkner.
The soundtrack concludes with Livewire’s dance remix of Sally Anne. It’s pure novelty of course, but the electronics have been grafted so cleverly to the structure of the song that this unlikely hybrid of techno and bluegrass works far more coherently than most remixes of boppy pop tunes. So well, in fact, that I’ll break the shackles of my general set against such things and proclaim that I like it. Hopefully, the sheer quality of the whole soundtrack will have the same affect on anyone inclined to baulk at its stylistic roots. Light hearted and sophisticated in equal measures it deserves a wider audience than the bluegrass buffs. Who knows, with a bit of luck it might even do for fast fiddlin’ and sweet pickin’ what Priscilla did for disco.
Published June 17, 2004
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TITLE: Strange Bedfellows
ID: 021456 125791
SCORE: Dale Cornelius
ORIGINAL SONGS: Dale Cornelius, Gerry Hale
PERFORMERS: Gerry Hale; Matt Heatherington; Di Faulkner