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Record Review - 2 January 27 2001

It looks like this is the year that the film industry finally capitalizes on the Southern gothic/white trash/hillbilly mentality. There are a slew of new movies on the way that focus on the dark side of life in Dixie, and it should be no surprise that the majority of soundtracks use country music. Now, this can be a good thing, particularly if the powers that be are smart enough to use the right stuff. Without seeing the film, it's obvious the folks selecting the music for The Gift had a very specific intent. Song for song, it is one of the most intriguing collections of old and new country tunes to be found.
Divided equally between brand-new material and classic songs, the soundtrack features both well-known artists and a number of up-and-coming Americana acts. Songstress Neko Case has two cuts on the disc, along with the Seattle-based Souvenirs. From the old school there's work by Merle Haggard, George Jones and a couple of top-notch and very intense new cuts by Willie Nelson ("Great Divide") and Waylon Jennings (Wastin' Time").
For the most part, the tunes are stripped down to basic acoustic instrumentation and simple arrangements. The overall aural effect is gloomy and foreboding, conveying a sense of impending tragedy. However, there are glimmers of hope throughout the mix, in particular "Beautiful Hills," a surprisingly emotional and coherent number by the psychotic Hasil Adkins. If you were making a compilation tape of country music for a friend who was into Goth, it might sound a lot like this.
The Souvenirs play the Echo Lounge, Wed., Jan. 31.