If you are jonesing for the way New Orleans' used to be or are kicking yourself hard because you never made the pilgrimage down before the recent tragedy, then the soundtrack to The Skeleton Key is your best bet. Like the movie, the soundtrack transports the audience into the bayou culture with such ease that at times it's almost hard to believe that you're not in fact below the Mason-Dixon Line. Released on Varese Records, it is the perfect accompaniment to the film.
Composer Edward Shearmur and the Hollywood Studio Symphony bring the flick to life with their bone chilling orchestrations that can creep you out even in the light of day. Those who dig the horror aspect of the film will be pleased with the inclusion of "Conjure of Sacrifice," a spoken track key to the movie's plot. However, the real reason to buy this release is not for its freaky facets but for its spotlight on a few of the most influential blues artists of the twentieth century.
For anyone beginning to cultivate an interest in blues, this is a great foray into the genre and its heavy hitters. First off is Robert Johnson's "Come On In My Kitchen." Johnson, who many have dubbed the father of modern rock and roll, delivers his legendary take on Delta Blues with perfection. Mississippi Fred McDowell, master of the slide guitar, whether it be bottleneck or the apocryphal steak bone, lends his "61 Highway Blues" with a kind of raw integrity.
My vote however, goes to celebrated gospel musician, Blind Willie Johnson. His "God Moves On The Water" with its crackly sound quality, delivers a sucker punch to the soul. Johnny Farmer's "Death Letter" is easily the best track the recording has to offer. Farmer, the only bluesman on the disc still alive and kicking it, loans an infectious ditty that seeps into the skin and refuses to be washed away. Haunting and beat driven, the song is given a modern remix by southern rapper, Organized Noize. The marriage of Delta and hip-hop here is flawless.
Of course there are a few missteps and oddities. Blackbud's "Barefoot Dancing" is a jarring departure from the easy bayou theme. The song is ill suited to both movie and soundtrack, a definite skipper. As is Joe Washburn's "The Goldrush," which despite its melodic back music has a whiny quality that's hard to overlook. "Do Watcha Wanna" by Rebirth Brass Band is an interesting addition. It is a lively big band song that puts one in the mood for Mardi Gras. A rare gem is The Dixie Cups' version of the old Indian Mardi Gras chant "Iko Iko." Although given sinister connotations in the film, it is a fun and upbeat addition to the disc.
Seeped in New Orleans' jazz and Cajun music, the CD captures the music of The Big Easy and its surrounding parishes with forthright conviction. With the latest disaster still a fresh wound, the soundtrack as well as the film is jarring in ways that have nothing to do with the practice of voodoo. However, it is its ability to elegantly capture the culture and feel of the place that make both worth looking into. If only for a little while New Orleans's is returned to its former splendor through the music it has become known for. I suggest seeing the movie first then checking out this superb auxiliary.