We’ve got our hands on the track list of the soundtrack of True Grit, the upcoming remake movie directed by the Coen brothers and starring Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, and Hailee Steinfeld:
Burwell says of the film’s music:
“Ethan and Joel and I had the same idea—a score rooted in 19th-century hymns. The songs Mattie would sing if she had time for such frivolity. Our model was the hymn ‘Leaning on the Everlasting Arms’, composed in 1888 by Anthony Showalter, an elder of the First Presbyterian Church in Dalton, Georgia, and used memorably in the film The Night of the Hunter. This, together with other hymns of the period, forms the backbone of the score, which grows from church piano to orchestra as Mattie gets farther and farther from home.”
The soundtrack of True Grit will be released on December 21, 2010.
I’m wondering if anybody knows what other tunes (besides “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms”) were used throughout the score.
They also used “I’m in the Gloryland Way,” “What a Friend we have in Jesus,” and “Hold to God’s Unchanging Hand” with some wonderful piano arrangements worthy of the late Anthony Burger. Coming from a Southern Gospel quartet background, I know (and have sung) all these songs. In ways many viewers may not realize, aside from their haunting tunes, those largely unsung words weave this film into a bulwark of faith. A beautiful, almost sacred, production.
I completely agree with the comment Jim made. I grew up singing those spiritual songs in church, and hearing them in this version of True Grit gave it a power I was not prepared for. I suppose if you didn’t grow up in church hearing these songs they may not affect you as much as they did me, but it was amazing the beautiful memories these songs evoked. Watching the movie filled me with emotions I have not felt in a very long time. I just love watching Coen brother movies because they hit you from so many different angles, and I certainly did not think I was going to hear such simple and yet completely beautiful renditions of those songs. It was magical the way those songs took me back in time. Thanks again to the Coen brothers for their movies!
My wife and I saw True Grit today and were overwhelmed by the totally wonderful music throughout the entire movie! We leaned very closely together and quietly sang along with the music as it played in the movie…….just could not help ourselves. We were the last people to leave the theater. Indeed the music is so precious and haunting. The old songs of the church that so many have never heard, and still many of us hunger for them in our church services today were found in this movie.
We have not only sung these old songs, but have spent many years of our lives around gospel music, preaching and doing MC work for the gospel sings held in the Nashville, Tenn. area and all over the US with The Statesmen,The Stamps The Goodman family and many other groups.
We do have a couple of questions. What was the deciding factor for the selection of the music for the movie? How did the person that made the selection know all of these old songs of the church from long ago, know about Anthony Burger (whom we knew also)? We did notice that some of you are from Ga. which is Gospel singing country! I love to preach there!
We appreciate you using the old songs of the church. We know that America is starving for wholesome entertainment without the filth and cursing and taking God’s name in vain. YOU have the means if used correctly, to bring America back to God.
Thank you for this step that you have taken.
Rev. Al Grounds – Founder of Restored Ministries Inc.
Where in the world is that wonderful Edith DeMint of Garrison Keillor’s radio show fame on the soundtrack of True Grit. I bought it and it ends with Everlasting Arms not her voice as the movie did.
Her name is actually Iris DeMent. Love her simple voice and approach to songs.
Deedra, I’m sorry to say the Iris DeMent track is only available when you download the soundtrack through iTunes. However, if you look for the recorded works of Iris, I’m sure it’s an earlier recording just re-used for the film.
My best to all who have posted here, as this film has introduced me to this music for the first time (though I come from a long line of prairie-crossing Methodists), and I will always be grateful to the Cohens.
I struggled for several hours after the movie ended to sort out the music to the rarely heard beginning to “Don’t Fence Me In”. It was heard quite a bit towards the beginning of the movie.
Wildcat Kelly, lookin’ mighty pale
Was standin’ by the Sherriff’s side
And when that Sherriff said, “I’m sending you to jail”
Wildcat raised his head and cried
The music of TRUE GRIT struck me immediately. The gospel song used most in the film is “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” its melody played through a number of variations over several scenes. Then, at the critical moment when Mattie rides Blackie into the river where the horse must swim through deep water in a strong current, the music changes to a lesser-known but very important song: “Hold to God’s Unchanging Hand.” This same music is heard again much later after Mattie falls into a deep, cave-like hole, is bitten by a rattlesnake, and is rescued by Rooster with the considerable help of La Boeuf and his horse. The intensity and importance of these two scenes is underscored when one knows the words to “Unchanging Hand.”
“Time is filled with swift transition. Naught of earth unmoved can stand. Build your hopes on things eternal. Hold to God’s unchanging hand!”
I grew up singing these songs, every verse. The score of TRUE GRIT could have been trite, but the sometimes subtle, seamless changes from one melody to another of these gospel songs intensified the significance of critical scenes for those of us who knew the words.
I also grew up singing the old hymns and miss them terribly. I have searched for a long time for an old fashion church that sings the hymns and have not found anything like the simple nondenominational church I grew up in. All the churches I have visited are singing the new praise songs, the hymns are all but forgotten. Does anyone know how I could get the piano sheet music for the Burwell arrangements in True Grit?
My husband & I saw the movie last night. I found the use of historic hymns moving, as well. Leaning On the Everlasting Arms, in particular, reminded me of singing hymns with my grandmother. She’s 90.
Riggan, I was looking for the piano sheet music too.
My wife and I went to see the movie at the pictures in Cambridge uk. The music was really touching and brought back my childhood with my grandparents and sitting watching robert mitchum with the tattoos on his hands harhar. Well done the coens another great choice in music. i love reading the comments above. BTW the pictures was huge and nearly empty at 1500 only cambridge students and senior citizens. But we all loved it.
I also sang these songs as a younger person, and enjoyed their use in the film. But let’s please stop short of the Reverend Grounds’s pean to the Coen Brothers as some kind of force for his version of the Christian god.
The Coen Brothers were raised in the Jewish tradition, but both have repeatedly stated that they are non-religious. Indeed, Ethan is on record as saying the belief in an omnipotent and benevolent God is “the height of stupidity.”
Indeed, the smallest bit of musical education will inform you that these hymns are merely “popular songs from the late 1800s” — very much like today’s “praise songs” are for modern Christian communities, or so-called “classical” music was for people in the 1600-1700s.
It’s great music, well used, but let’s not go crazy, mmmkay?