Ben Dickey and Others Shine on Soundtrack To “Blaze: Original Cast Recording” (ALBUM REVIEW)

Ben Dickey and Alia Shawkat as Blaze Foley and Sybil Rosen.

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This is the third leg of the stool. Readers of this site have seen the film review by James Roberts and an interview with Ethan Hawke also conducted by James Roberts. Ah, maybe this is the fourth leg, as there is also a one-on-one interview with Ben Dickey who plays Foley in the movie. So, this writer has not yet seen the film but is familiar with the songs of Blaze Foley, several of which appear on this soundtrack, BLAZE. And, of course, wishing that a few others had been included too.

Ben Dickey is the lead singer on ten of these dozen tunes. Dickey, a first time actor, won the Special Jury Award for “Achievement in Acting” for his portrayal of Blaze.  Dickey composed “Blaze and Sybil’s Lullaby” and performs it alongside co-star Alia Shawkat, who plays Foley’s ex-wife, Sybil Rosen, in the film. Seven tunes were written by Foley, “Marie” by Townes Van Zandt is done by Charlie Sexton and Lucinda Williams’ “Drunken Angel” (written about Foley) is performed by Alynda Segarra of Hurray for the Riff Raff. Other tunes include “Pearly Gates” by Blind Willie McTell and “Oo-De-Lally” by Roger Miller, both performed by Dickey and Shawkat.  

Foley was a legend among the singer-songwriter troubadours in Texas but never really got his due because of his early passing at age 39 and a bohemian lifestyle that kept him out of the limelight.  Reissues of his material over the past couple of decades, efforts of cohorts like Gurf Morlix, and, of c grow that awareness to unprecedented levels. Foley was a gifted songwriter but only an average musician and vocalist.  Part of his intrigue is due to the shrouded in mystery existence he had; living in a treehouse for example. Put on an original Blaze Foley disc and you can almost feel that mystery or at least some kind of special spirit. This soundtrack succeeds admirably in capturing that through the music alone. Yet, it goes further. Listen carefully to hear clinking beer bottles, birds, and cast cheering each other during a take. It has the feel of natural conversation.

The soundtrack begins with one of Foley’s most covered tunes, “Clay Pigeons,” which has been rendered by John Prine and others.  Other well-known Foley tunes include “Picture Cards,” “Big Cheeseburgers and Good French Fires” and “Cold Cold World.” These politically oriented songs would have been interesting adds, although they may have pointed the film in a different direction – “Oval Room,” “Election Day,” “Officer Norris,” “WWIII” and “No Goodwill Stores in Waikiki.”  You’ll have to find those elsewhere.

Director Hawke is an Austin native, well-steeped in the lore of both Foley and Townes Van Zandt. He brought in people that loved them the most including Foley’s ex-wife Sybil Rosen upon whose book Living in The Woods in a Tree the movie is loosely based. Longtime friend and bandmate Morlix are in the film and plays on these tunes as well as Bob Dylan’s guitarist Charlie Sexton, who does a mirror image rendition of Van Zandt, whom he plays in the film, on “Marie.” Alia Shawkat and Alynda Segarra already knew the words to Foley’s tunes before being tapped for the film.

The mystery of Blaze Foley is being unraveled. It’s easy to see why he had so many admirers.

 

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