My Music for Billy Bob
Red Floor Records
This isn’t a new album by Daniel Lanois – although it could be, for you…if you’ve never had the soundtrack to Billy Bob Thornton’s movie, Sling Blade – the score created by Lanois – then this is your chance. Long out of print, Lanois has put together his own (new) version of the score, removing any source music and tacking in a small handful of pieces he wrote for the film that weren’t used in the final cut.
So it’s like a “Producer’s Cut” version of the film’s soundtrack; a peek into the scrapbook of ideas as well as the new copy of the finished product.
For me it’s been a lovely reminder, a quiet revelation revisiting this music. I did own the Sling Blade soundtrack, in fact I bought it for $1 in a chuck-out bin; might have been the very best budget-buy I ever made, music-wise. At that point I only knew Lanois from his production work. Seems wrong to say ‘only’ – when that includes albums by Peter Gabriel and Willie Nelson and the Neville Brothers and Bob Dylan; albums that changed my world. There were contributions to albums with Brian Eno and for U2. Also albums that I loved at the time – so much.
I knew that Lanois had a solo career and was a great guitar slinger, I knew about his sonic – but the Sling Blade soundtrack was my first chance to experience Lanois’ music in a case of his name being on the spine of the CD. It was so crucial to the film too, to my appreciation of the movie. I love that film and I’ve only ever watched it the one time – the soundtrack became the reminder. The subtle waft of the music would bring back with it the crucial scenes. The mood and feel of the film evoked through listening to the music.
In listening to My Music For Billy Bob – reconnecting with the Sling Blade score – I can now hear moments that are reminiscent of Lanois’ work with Eno on the Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks album (Nicky, London) and gorgeous pieces of understatement like Willie Brown – could have been part of the textures to Dylan’s Oh Mercy or Willie’s Teatro. Then there’s a slip of Emmylou’s voice on Shenandoah – reminds you of the great work she and Lanois have created together; just over a minute of music here but it serves as microcosm.
Finally of course there’s that song The Maker – so many versions of it exist, on albums by Lanois – as both singer and producer, and a handful too without him. But as it arrives at the end of this album it’s not so much the towering achievement as a reminder that this clever player and producer is, at heart, a writer and artist. A songwriter, a sculptor. And some of his finest work – as shaper, as creator – was here in this music, eerie and enrapturing, that he made for Billy Bob.