The outgrowth of two previous albums that paired Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, the ambitious effort spawned from this creative collaboration between Martin, Brickell, director Walter Bobbie and musical supervisor Peter Asher has made Bright Star one of the bright lights on the Great White Way. The story goes back and forth in time, alternating between 1923 and 1945 while describing a tangled relationship involving forbidden relationships, a murdered love child, and an aspiring writer recently returned from the war.
In many cases, a stand-alone soundtrack devoid of the narrative can falter, lacking the story line necessary to underscore the songs. In this instance, the album succeeds on its own, thanks to an invigorating bluegrass/antebellum score and music that’s so joyful, buoyant and outright enthusiastic that they pierce the veneer that lies between the recording and the live performance. One of its pivotal moments, “Asheville,” was previewed on one of the duo’s earlier albums, and in this context, it sets the tone for the rest of the score. Songs such as “Bright Star,” “Sun Is Gonna Shine” and “What Could Be Better” have hooks aplenty, and any of them could stand alone, or at least find a place in the duo’s own stage show. And yet, based on these tracks alone — and a brief synopsis that’s included in the booklet — it’s clear that this is the kind of vibrant presentation capable of reaping a solid cache of Tony Awards.
With that in mind, Bright Star is an album worthy of reaping accolades all on its own. It can be enjoyed singularly, without ever seeing the show, but that much more once one has opportunity to actually view a performance. Above all, all the participants — actors, musicians and the creative team included — deserve credit for making this project a total triumph.