March 22, 2006

The great Elizabethtown road trip

So I finally got around to watching Elizabethtown. I had been hearing about this ever since, oh, last August, all about how Ryan Adams had a bunch of music in it, blah, blah, blah. And then I remembered in a flash of glee that my Uncle Dave used to be the big impressive principal at E-Town High School (as those of us in-the-know call it), so I was doubly excited.

Turns out my anticipation was for no good reason. The movie is tolerable, its salvation largely being the soundtrack, and also because Cameron Crowe just *knows* how to make a movie. I mean, all the elements are there – adversity of mythic proportions, family illness, quirky relatives, and even a perky love interest who shows no end to the depth of her random comments and bed-a-bility. What’s not to like? Well, the low point for me in the movie = Susan Sarandon tap dancing. Well, most of it was really speedy tap-dancing because it was on fast forward. Holy Moses. Did I mention it was at a memorial service? There was some poignant sighing in the crowd, some tears for the exuberant display of LIFE in the face of DEATH — aaaaand we’re done. No.

While most of the movie was drivel, and even a little annoying (his sister in the film was unworthy of the name Heather because she bugged the crap out of me), the best part of the movie was absolutely the last 20 minutes where lead guy sets out on a roadtrip with many CD mixes made by aforementioned perky love interest girl to accompany his every vista and curve in the road. Also included with the CDs is a heavy-handed and, let’s face it, unrealistic handmade “roadmap”/scrapbook that I kept thinking she would have NO time to make, what with the rigors of flight attending, talking to lead guy on the phone at all hours of the night, painting her toenails, apparently knitting her own hats, and just generally being adorable (which is hard work, let me tell you).

But what this roadtrip was really about for me was the glimpse it offered into the always fascinating musical mind of Cameron Crowe, who undoubtedly is THE best soundtracker in the known world. One reviewer referred to it as “Crowe’s gold-standard back catalog tastes,” and that is exactly what he has. I want to be his friend so we can ride around in his car and listen to his iPod on random. That would be fun.

The best part about the last 20 minutes was not just hearing Crowe’s mixes and feeling the flow, but also seeing what images he chose to juxtapose alongside those songs. It tapped into my unfulfilled dormant desire to have an epic road trip with The Perfect Soundtrack to accompany all the amazing things I was seeing. Like I’ve said before, I wish my life had a soundtrack. This is pretty close. Here are a few gems I enjoyed, either played or mentioned in that poetic and sprawling segment:

That’s Life – James Brown
(first song of the journey – I love how it starts out with the trademark James Brown “Hey!” and then a little “Unh!” and a “One more for the road!“)

Don’t I Hold You – Wheat
(“Some music just needs air. Roll down your windows.”)

Words – Ryan Adams
(right after lead guy drives across the Mississippi and there is a mention of Jeff Buckley. Also notable is the use of ‘English Girls Approximately’ at the Farmer’s Market – I absolutely LOVE that song and was stoked to hear it in a movie)

Sugar Blue – Jeff Finlin
(singin’ about stuff like the “raven’s song that breaks the night” – lovely and rough-sounding)

Salvador Sanchez – Mark Kozelek/Sun Kil Moon
(scrawled in the scrapbook list of songs, but I don’t think it was played in the movie itself?)

Now where are my car keys?


  • im pretty sure that kozelek track did get played…if not that one, then another. thanks for the tracks though. it’d be awesome if you got even more of ‘em up!

    Dance Hall Hips — March 22, 2006 @ 2:55 am

  • after reading this post i read a lot of your other stuff and i loooooove your blog a lot! im adding you to my site!

    Dance Hall Hips — March 22, 2006 @ 3:09 am

  • I never ever want to see this film.

    But i could listen to that ryan adams track over and over.

    And chances are I’m going to.


    coxon le woof — March 22, 2006 @ 4:49 pm

  • Your blog is SUPER, but how could you mention the E-Town soundtrack w/o mentioning “Where to Begin” from My Morning Jacket. Great song (although their new record is HIGHLY overrated…HIGHLY)


    ps. The guys from MMJ played the cover band in the movie singing “Freebird”

    tim — March 22, 2006 @ 7:51 pm

  • Heya, been loving this blog for a long time. And loved the exact same thing in this movie. the soundtrack scrapbook thing. and the jeff buckley name drop from no where “youre now passing over the river where jeff buckley drowned” it was like woah!…

    nice blog entry as usual.

    Joshua Lachkovic — March 23, 2006 @ 4:41 pm

  • I actually really disliked the last 20 minutes of this movie for the same reasons that you loved it. It felt tacked on, like Crowe was thinking, “Oh crap, I need to fit some more music into this movie, how can I do that?”

    chip — March 23, 2006 @ 9:00 pm

  • chip,
    i do agree that it felt disjointed; i think i would have liked it better if that last 20 minutes was just an independent vignette, kind of avant-garde, not having to fit with anything else. maybe the reason that i liked it was precisely because it was so disjointed from the rest of the movie!

    heather — March 23, 2006 @ 9:02 pm

  • ahhh…but doesn’t your life really have a soundtrack??? mine does…
    for example…i walked into work today…almost no one there….the intro to PUBLIC IMAGE by PIL starts in my haed..

    SINEDDIE — August 28, 2006 @ 8:27 pm

  • PS.
    Ryan Adams bores me ……
    but rock on anyway!

    SINEDDIE — August 28, 2006 @ 8:28 pm

  • If you think your life doesnt have a soundtrack, then what drives this blog? I think we all have that special music that sends us back to a special place or time, one of the things that connects us all thru our favorite music. I am in my mid 50′s and grew up driving cross country and love the road trip sequence. There is nothing like a trip off the super slab, to see the real America

    Anonymous — February 17, 2008 @ 8:34 pm

  • I know that your post about this movie is mondo old, but here’s my two cents: the last 20 minutes has everything to do with the movie. it’s the idea that now that his obligation to his father is fulfilled, it’s time that he take care of what he owes himself. this road trip is only the beginning of his journey…especially now that he’s finally awake. i.e. “Long Ride Home” by Patty Griffin, also part of his riding mix

    ok so you didn’t love the movie but at least you managed to grasp one of the most important concepts Crowe was putting forth: maybe it’s time for you to stop floating through existence as you think it’s supposed to be; maybe it’s time for you to take the wheel and plot a course.

    jdjaded — May 29, 2008 @ 12:14 am

  • Thanks!

    Searched for more info about the Elisabethtown soundtrack and the song “you have to listen loud with open windows”….in german you say “manche lieder muss man einfach laut hören” ;-)

    greetings from germany

    Anonymous — July 2, 2008 @ 2:55 pm

  • I enjoyed your blog, mostly because I’ve always felt like my life needed a soundtrack. I liked the movie, more because I could relate to the small town life, the relatives and what not. Then there was the road trip. I grew up with a road trip every year. As an adult, I missed that. My daughter and I took a road trip after her graduation, inspired by the Elizabethown road trip. It was great fun and I advise everyone to take at least one in their lifetime.

    Traveling Penny — December 21, 2008 @ 1:15 pm

  • I believe Crowe’ s wife Nancy (of Heart) does the music scores for his films.

    Hilva — July 5, 2014 @ 7:56 pm

  • Superb songs by Elizabethown.. My day starts to hear Elizabethown songs.. The voice so melody

    sourav behl — December 30, 2017 @ 1:17 am

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

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