I am an unabashed Taylor Sheridan fanboy. Who is the gentleman you ask? Just one of the hottest screenwriter/directors working today, notable for redefining the modern Western. Sicario. Hell or High Water. Wind River. And now screenwriting and directing the Yellowstone TV series on the Paramount Network. Produced by and starring Kevin Costner, Yellowstone follows the conflicts along the shared borders of a large cattle ranch, an Indian reservation, land developers and Yellowstone National Park.
Besides being a terrific screenwriter, Sheridan is a master at picking the right composers and artists’ music for his exemplary screenplays and cinematographies. The soundtracks of each play a big part in the moods of all his films thus far, and that action seems to be repeating itself in the early episodes of Yellowstone. His affinity for music might have something to do with his upbringing. Sheridan grew up on a ranch in Cranfills Gap, Texas. His family lived minimally, not having a stereo system in their house. His parents would sit in their station wagon, which had an 8-track player, listening to music to pass the time. Had they not lost the property in the early 1990s, said Sheridan, “I would still be living there.”
It’s starting to become easy for me to pick out the work of Taylor and his colleagues. If the cinematography is prominent, and the attached soundtrack is spare yet creates an overwhelming mood, chances are it’s their signature. Just three episodes in, the attached playlist is already full of examples where the music is perfect for what’s showing onscreen. And unlike with most westerns, it comes from a variety of musical genres. There are examples of country music one might expect in this environment (including the excellent Tennessee Whiskey from Chris Stapleton), but also notable inclusions like the hip-hop Save Your Soul from Canadian First Nations descendant Joey Stylez. When the plaintive Tumbleweed (from former Tool – yes, THAT Tool – lead-singer Maynard James Keenan’s new group Puscifer) is playing as police cruisers, helicopters, and Native Americans on horseback are racing in otherwise silence to a showdown over cattle, you just know it’s not going to end well. Indie rockers Blur and their popular Song 2 are perfect for the manic craziness of bullriding. Soon to come, composer Brian Tyler will be arranging a Yellowstone soundtrack album that will include his compositions along with select artist songs from the series. You can get a taste of that from the YouTube video teaser below. In the meantime, enjoy this playlist of song selections from the early episodes of Yellowstone. And if you’re like me – if you like to listen to your favorites while sitting in the car and imagine how they might be used in a soundtrack for film or television – remember there’s a talented screenwriter/director who got started doing that very same thing. Have a terrific Friday and mid-July weekend everyone.