Written By General Jabbo
American music was at a crossroads in 1950. The big band music of the previous generation was fading in popularity with new forms taking its place. Not quite rock and roll, blues, jazz, or swing, this music would serve as the transition between the big band era of the ‘40s and the rock and roll era of the ‘50s. This is the music prevalent in the soundtrack to John Sayles’ new film, Honeydripper.
The album opens with two instrumentals – The Aces Of Spade’s “Honeydripper Lounge,” a swinging ode to the Alabama clubs the movie is set in, and “Tall Cotton,” with its rich, harmonica blues. Legendary Stax soul singer, Dr. Mable John takes on “No Matter How She Done It” with a touch of vaudeville while the New Beginnings Ministry adds their gospel sound to “Standing by the Highway.”
The soundtrack also features original period pieces, including Hank Williams’ “Move it on Over,” Lil Green’s “Why Don’t You Do it Right,” and Memphis Slim’s “Bertha May” – a haunting song played on a celeste that inspired the funeral scene in the film.
Honeydripper’s star, Danny Glover even takes on “Goin’ Down Slow,” with Sonny Leyland on piano. It’s hard to tell from the recording whether it was made in 1950 or 2008 such is its authenticity.
The album serves as a showcase however for relatively unknown-guitarist Gary Clark, Jr., described by Texas Music Magazine as ”probably the most talented Texas guitarist since a certain SRV.” High praise indeed, but he backs it up on covers of “Good Rockin’ Tonight,” “Blue Light Boogie,” and on the rollicking original, “China Doll,” co-written by Sayles and Mason Daring.
The new and vintage recordings mix together well to provide an exciting look into a musical era gone by, resurrected to great effect by Sayles with Honeydripper.