Ry Cooder's Crossroads: A Bluesy Soundtrack for a Cult Classic
Ry Cooder is a renowned guitarist, composer and producer who has worked with artists such as The Rolling Stones, Buena Vista Social Club, Taj Mahal and Ali Farka TourÃ. He is also known for his film scores, such as Paris, Texas, The Long Riders and The Border. One of his most acclaimed soundtracks is Crossroads, released in 1986.
Crossroads is a film inspired by the legend of blues musician Robert Johnson, who allegedly sold his soul to the devil at a crossroads in exchange for musical talent. The film stars Ralph Macchio as Eugene Martone, a young classical guitar student who is obsessed with Johnson's music. He meets Willie Brown (Joe Seneca), an old bluesman who claims to be Johnson's friend and former partner. Together, they embark on a journey to Mississippi to find Johnson's lost song and to face the devil at the crossroads.
The soundtrack features original compositions by Ry Cooder, as well as covers of blues classics by J.B. Lenoir, Noah Lewis and Fred Burch. Cooder plays guitar, mandolin and vocals on most tracks, accompanied by musicians such as Frank Frost, Sonny Terry, Jim Keltner, Van Dyke Parks and Jorge CalderÃn. The soundtrack also includes guitar performances by Steve Vai and Arlen Roth, who play the roles of Jack Butler and Scratch's Guitarist respectively in the film.
The soundtrack blends traditional blues with rock, country and folk influences, creating a rich and diverse musical landscape that reflects the film's themes of tradition, innovation and identity. Some of the highlights are \"Crossroads\", a medley of Robert Johnson's \"Cross Road Blues\" and Ahmad Jamal's \"Poinciana\"; \"Feelin' Bad Blues\", a haunting instrumental that showcases Cooder's slide guitar skills; \"Willie Brown Blues\", a duet between Cooder and Seneca that captures the friendship between their characters; and \"See You in Hell, Blind Boy\", a tense and dramatic piece that accompanies the final showdown at the crossroads.
Crossroads is a soundtrack that stands on its own as a masterful work of blues music, as well as a fitting tribute to Robert Johnson and his legacy. It is widely regarded as one of Ry Cooder's best albums and one of the best film soundtracks of all time.
The soundtrack received positive reviews from critics and fans alike, who praised Cooder's musical vision and authenticity. AllMusic gave the album 4.5 stars out of 5, calling it \"an impressive blues-derived soundtrack\" and highlighting Cooder's guitar playing. [^1^] Discogs users rated the album 4.3 out of 5, with comments such as \"one of the best soundtracks ever made\" and \"a masterpiece of blues music\". [^2^] [^3^]
The soundtrack also had a significant impact on the careers of some of the musicians involved. Steve Vai, who played the role of Jack Butler, the devil's guitarist, gained recognition for his virtuosic and flashy style, which contrasted with Cooder's more subtle and nuanced approach. Vai later said that working with Cooder was \"one of the most educational experiences\" of his life. Arlen Roth, who played the role of Scratch's Guitarist, a mysterious bluesman who helps Eugene in his quest, also gained exposure for his slide guitar skills and went on to release several instructional videos and books on guitar playing.
The soundtrack also influenced a generation of guitarists who were inspired by Cooder's interpretation of Johnson's music and his use of open tunings, bottleneck slides and fingerpicking techniques. Some of the artists who have cited Cooder as an influence include Eric Clapton, John Frusciante, Jack White, Derek Trucks and Keb' Mo'.