by Jason Parker (Ragachak)
Now, I enjoy Folk Music quite a lot. I don’t really listen to a lot of folk acts, but I do enjoy the ones I listen to immensely. The one that I find the most fascinating is the lead singer of Bad Religion (Greg Graffin)’s folk albums. Going from a hardline punk stance to the building of America and a folk, acoustic sound? It’s marvelous. Where the Water Tastes Like Wine’s soundtrack was also recently released, by Materia Collective, composed by Ryan Ike (a BAFTA-nominated composer), and he tells the history of the United States and its various cultures through this music. Where the Water Tastes Like Wine is a masterfully-told story, and a wonderful experience, according to our boss, MissyS, and you should totally read her review of it here if you haven’t. Every teaser and trailer I saw caught my attention more than the last one, from the visuals down to the musical score, so I was very excited to know I had a shot at reviewing this album. This is definitely a game on my to-play list, and this is what Ryan Ike had to say about working on this soundtrack:
“Working on this soundtrack has been a dream come true for a lot of reasons,” notes composer Ryan Ike. “I’ve always been really interested in how music can change and take on a life of its own as people share it, and getting to explore that idea with WTWTLW’s world map theme (which shifts styles and influences depending on where you are in the country) was awesome. I’m also a big fan of how people from different backgrounds can come together to form one musical culture. I think American Folk music is one of the best examples of that, and writing this soundtrack meant I got to work with a ton of amazing performers from all over the country, including many I’ve been wanting an excuse to hire for a long time. Working on this game really crossed a lot of stuff off my musical bucket list!”
I picked a song from each “section” of the album, each part of America, but there are definitely some that are also deserving of notice. Every song on this album is amazing. “Root and Rise” is another fantastic song I didn’t list here, as well as the somber tones of “From This Field I wish to Rise”. “Soulsucker Blues” is such a smooth blues track and 100% worthy of notice. Akenya sang this, and her voice is enchanting in this blues setting. It’s definitely one hell of a way (if you’ll pardon the expression) to get this album going. Shoutouts to her, Joshua Du Chene, Cody Richards, and everyone who took part in this overwhelmingly powerful album. You can get it on Bandcamp here, and if you love the blues, jazz, American folk, or anything remotely resembling them, you need both this game and this album. It’s such a hard thing to pick a “favorite”, but I will say without hyperbole, this is the most soulful album I have listened to in my life. That’s with Graffin’s “Cold as the Clay” on the table. It comes very highly recommended, even if you never play the game. But I think it will make you want to.
Vagrant Song (Deep South) (Track 3): A slow, somber acoustic song, Vagrant Song (Deep South) is the first of four Vagrant Songs taking place in various parts of the country, each with the flavor of the particular area. This one strikes the closest to home though. Though most of my family did not arrive in America until about 1903, and when they did, it was the North, I personally spent almost all of my life in the southern United States, down in North Carolina. Sure, that’s not “deep” south, but this song speaks to me. “Well, I’ve got no companion, cept the wind, and the sea. And when I’m cold and empty, they’re the ones who will bury me” is deep. A little on the dark side, definitely deep, soulful. This is easily one of my favorite songs on the entire soundtrack and it came up mighty early.
Read ’em And Weep (Track 14): Read ’em and weep is an instrumental track that definitely has that 1920s/30s jazz-style sound, made famous by musicians like Louis Armstrong, which makes it all the more interesting that it takes place in the Mid-West section. Though Satchmo was from the Deep South (Louisana), he brought that flavor with him to Chicago and lit the city on fire with his trumpet. This feels like a tribute to the birth of Jazz in the best way possible. Whoever played that trumpet breathed life into it. I could definitely hear this in a gambling establishment with a jazz band roaring in the background. There could be dancing, cheering, but somewhere, someone is getting fleeced out of their savings in a game of cards.
White Rider (Track 18): Now we move the Southwest, the dust, the notion of cowboys, horseback, and the White Rider. This song makes me immediately think of a cowboy trotting through the desert, telling the tale of the White Rider, and how he ain’t “Fixin’ to join their fading line”. The White Rider’s coming to claim him before his time, and he’s not prepared for it. “They were dressed in white from toe to tip, pale horses draw the load. And last among their number, a chilling sight to see, the 13th horse lay empty, with a saddle meant for me.” This is a song of death and the end, a man doing his best to literally and figuratively trying to outrun the end of his days, riding from Tulsa to somewhere in the southwest. But nobody outruns the White Rider. On the fifth day, he pitched into the sand, and the riders inevitably caught up to him. “Son I think the time has come, to saddle up and ride”. This is another of my absolute favorite songs on the album.
Heavy Hands (Track 22): Technically, this is the last song on the album (though there are instrumental/guitar versions of the Vagrant Songs afterwards), but this is the end. Joshua Du Chene and May Claire La Plante duet in this last song, talking about the land where The Water Tastes Like Wine. A pair of amazing fiddles play alongside the guitar of Joshua, and I won’t lie, I teared up a bit as I finally got to the end of this album. “Finally” is the wrong word, perhaps. This was a trip I was not prepared to take, riding across this land of ours, this is such an appropriate way to end the trip. It’s also the longest track on the album, clocking in at 5:16 and is such a serious song. They seem to have no fear of the end, and in fact, welcome it as they come to The place where Water Tastes Like Wine.