Carter Burwell
& Capercaillie
Rob Roy
(Virgin, 1995)

The soundtrack to the movie Rob Roy is unique, beautiful work. It avoids many of the musical cliches so common in soundtracks. Instead, it sweeps through the epic sounds without falling back on standard tricks.

Prominently featuring Capercaillie, the bulk of the pieces have elements of traditional Scottish music. This is a nice change from soundtracks that have one or two traditional-sounding tracks, but otherwise sound just like any other movie score. It was this soundtrack that brought Capercaillie to a broader audience with the song "Ailein Duinn (Dark Alan)." There are also a couple of wonderful instrumental sets by the group, a second song ("Morag's Lament") and contributions scattered throughout.

Aside from Capercaillie, the rest of the musicians are also quite spectacular. Davy Spillane plays uillean pipes and low whistles. Maire Breatnach plays fiddle. Tommy Hayes appears on bodhran. Ronan Brown plays pennywhistle and Miriam Stockley provides additional, beautiful vocals.

The music does occasionally stray away from being completely Scottish and ventures into the realm of "Celtic music," where all Celtic musical traditions happily mix together. This, however, can easily be forgiven due to the overall high quality of the recording. Not content to stick a fiddle in twice and have someone singing "Scotland the Brave," "Loch Lomond" or some other overused bit of Scottish music, composer Carter Burwell has written an entire soundtrack of music that accurately reflects the setting and the story, with a recurring theme played hauntingly on the fiddle or whistle. While such tactics as "making it louder when the bad guys come" or "soft, sweet music for the lovers" are used, they are a bit more subtle than usual and this CD can be listened to without the continual reminders that "this is a soundtrack!!!" The inclusion of many well-respected musicians adds an authenticity that could not have been duplicated with anyone else.

The emotions of the characters, from the happiness and safety of a ceilidh to the fear of trying to escape a relentless enemy, and the landscape, from the bleak expanse of Rannoch Moor to the majesty of the Highlands, are wonderfully evoked.

Although the film Rob Roy didn't achieve the same success as Braveheart, which was released at nearly the same time, I have always preferred the former. The quality of the music surely added to that preference. Celtic music fans will be happy to find a soundtrack that finally does justice to Scottish music; Capercaillie fans will enjoy the material, some of which can only be found on this album; and fans of the movie can enjoy the experience over and over. It is rare, as a soundtrack, that it can be listened to on different levels. It can be the soundtrack to Rob Roy, or it can simply be enjoyed as beautiful, evocative music. This is as superb a soundtrack as ever there was!

- Rambles
written by Jean Emma Price
published 22 May 2004

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