Carter Burwell’s music is one of the most powerful elements in Joel and Ethan Coen’s True Grit (2010). If you’ve seen the film, and paid careful attention, you’ll know why. Sharply juxtaposed to Mattie Ross’s desire for vengeance is the beloved hymn “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms”, which can be heard distinctly in Burwell’s score throughout the course of the movie. The irony is subtle and bitter, and will be missed by many people, but it exists nonetheless. Coincidence? If so, it’s a pretty incredible one.
The album opens with The Wicked Flee, featuring a piano tapping out “Leaning On the Everlasting Arms”. As the song progresses, strings and horns appear, bolstering an already graceful arrangement. River Crossing is absolutely stunning and probably my favorite piece on the entire album, while Your Headstrong Ways – the seventh number – has a sweet, jaunty air to it. The triumphant One Against Four coincides perfectly with the film’s thrilling climax, and The Grave brings everything to an appropriately serene culmination.