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Various Artists

American Folk soundtrack – 2018 (American Folk Records/Thirty Tigers)

Reviewed by Jim Hynes

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The soundtrack for the independent film, "American Folk," stars two real-life singer-songwriters played by Joe Purdy and Amber Rubarth, who also contribute the bulk of the material on the soundtrack. Understanding the plot of the film helps explain both the sequence and content of the track list. The movie, which was filmed over 3,500 miles in 14 states, follows Elliott (Purdy) and Joni (Rubarth) - two strangers, both folk musicians - who are serendipitously brought together after their plane in grounded in Los Angeles following the 9-11 attacks. Needing to get back to New York City, they embark on a cross-country journey in a 1972 Chevy van. Along the way, they sing with people they meet along the way, often as a cathartic release from the tragedy crying out for a lifting of spirits.

The pair either wrote or co-wrote 6 of the 19 tracks, others of which are traditional tunes or those penned by John Prine, Jerry Garcia and David Grisman, A.P. Carter, Stephen Foster and Blaze Foley after an spending hours with Alan Lomax field recordings and other sources. "Moonlight," was penned by Foley and performed by Purdy and Rubarth. "Someone Singing With Me," is a thematic overview of sorts for the film, was written by Purdy, and is reminiscent of those classic duets between John Prine and Iris DeMent. "Townes," the closing track, was written by Rubarth and performed by her and Purdy.

Most of the songs are performed solo or together by Purdy and Rubarth, except "Some Humans Ain't Human" performed by John Prine and "Freight Train" done by Garcia and Grisman. Both Purdy and Rubarth come to this project as veteran singer-songwriters. Purdy, a multi-instrumentalist as well, has released 15 albums and had his songs featured on television shows and in films, but this is his first role as an actor. Rubarth has 10 albums of her own as well as acting credits. They have sung together before on several occasions, and their chemistry is palpable.

In an interview about the film, Rubarth elaborates on the collaboration, "Joe and I have a natural ease with each other musically. Our collaboration in reality closely followed the storyline, that these two characters who are opposite in many ways are able to create a deep relationship in a vulnerable space through their mutual love of folk music." It makes one want to see the film, especially after hearing these songs.