Saturday, January 4, 2014

An Unreal Dream: The Michael Morton Story: Music From And Inspired By The Film (2013) CD Review

An Unreal Dream: The Michael Morton Story is a documentary film about a man who was wrongly imprisoned for the murder of his wife. It premiered on CNN on December 5, 2013. The soundtrack features mostly instrumental tracks composed and performed by Rich Brotherton and Chuck Pinnell. There are also several songs featuring guest vocals by Texas singer-songwriters, such as Robert Earl Keen, Slaid Cleaves and Eliza Gilkyson.


Most of the tracks on this CD are instrumentals, written and performed by Rich Brotherton and Chuck Pinnell. And though they were composed with scenes from the film in mind, they also, for the most part, work well on their own. (I haven’t seen the film, and I really enjoyed most of these tracks.) They are mostly acoustic in arrangements. Chuck Pinnell plays acoustic guitar, classical guitar, and hammer dulcimer. Rich Brotherton plays acoustic guitar, tenor guitar, resonator guitar, dobro, cittern, mandolin, electric guitar, electric bass and keyboards.

Some of the instrumental tracks have a nice, dark, slow bluesy feel, such as “Conviction,” “Ramsey Unit Stomp” and “An Evil Place.” Those are among my favorites. Others have a pretty, soothing feel, such as “Epiphany.” “Christine” is a soft, pretty instrumental tune, with its first section mainly acoustic guitar. The song changes toward the end, but retains its sweet beauty. That song’s title is Michael Morton’s wife’s name. “Freedom” is a really good, uplifting acoustic tune.

“Reunion” is a pretty, mellow yet uplifting instrumental piece, featuring a wonderful string section, the string arrangement being by Peter Stopschinski. James Anderson, Alexis Buffum and Paul Anderson are all on violin, and Valerie Klatt-Fischer is on cello.

“In The Pines” with Slaid Cleaves and Eliza Gilkyson

The CD includes a version of “In The Pines” done as a gorgeous and haunting duet, with excellent vocal performances from both Slaid Cleaves and Eliza Gilkyson. Their vocals blend so well together. This version is made even more moving by the inclusion of Diana Burgess on cello.

“Midnight Special”

There is also a fun acoustic rendition of “Midnight Special,” the traditional song made popular by Creedence Clearwater Revival. This version features Rich Brotherton on vocals, Steve Doerr on harmonica and David Carroll on bass. I really love this rendition. There is some great work on acoustic guitar.

“Take This Hammer”

The CD includes a really good, slow, heartfelt version of “Take This Hammer,” featuring Robert Earl Keen on vocals. This version has a wonderful build, helped in part by the presence of Jon Greene on drums.

“Amazing Grace”

There is a beautifully simple, straightforward and sweet version of “Amazing Grace,” with Jerry Jeff Walker on vocals and acoustic rhythm guitar. This version also features Chris Gage on accordion and acoustic lead guitar.

“Whispering Hope”

Tina Wilkins and Jimmy LaFave provide vocals on the CD’s final track, “Whispering Hope.” Here is a taste of the lyrics: “Wait ‘til the darkness is over/Wait ‘til the tempest is done/Hope for the sunshine tomorrow/After the shower is gone/Whispering hope.” Their vocals sound great together. The song is helped by a small string section – Diana Burgess on cello and Warren Hood on violin. “Whispering Hope” was written by Septimus Winner.

CD Track List

  1. Opening
  2. Christine
  3. In The Pines
  4. Ambush
  5. Conviction
  6. Belly Of The Beast
  7. Midnight Special
  8. Last Goodbye
  9. Ramsey Unit Stomp
  10. Epiphany
  11. Take This Hammer
  12. At Last, Truth
  13. Monsters
  14. Transcendence 1
  15. Amazing Grace
  16. Freedom
  17. An Evil Place
  18. Transcendence 2
  19. Reunion
  20. Whispering Home

An Unreal Dream: The Michael Morton Story: Music From And Inspired By The Film was released on December 3, 2013.

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