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Soundtrack review: Justified (Steve Porcaro – 2015)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Justified (Steve Porcaro – 2015)


Justified is a critically acclaimed American television drama based on Elmore Leonard’s short story “Fire in the Hole”.Timothy Olyphant portrays Raylan Givens, a tough U.S. Marshal enforcing his own brand of justice in his hometown of Harlan, Kentucky. Walton Goggins from “The shield” stars as well. The series is set in Lexington and in the Appalachian mountains area of eastern Kentucky, specifically in and around Harlan and it’s on my list of binge watching. Steve Porcaro wrote the score and it was released at the end of the six seasons.

Naturally the acoustic guitar dominates this score. I a way “Justified” is a modern western and it needs that special flavor to make the listener get into the landscape of the TV show. Having not watched the show yet I am having a hard time connecting to the music. Besides, this doesn’t sound like the kind of TV music that establishes a unique identity to the story it completes. It’s a generic sound that makes me think of the Kentucky setting but there is very little emotion in the music. I feel a bit connected to “Boyd & Ava”, the theme for two of the main characters which was written by Marc Bonilla and has a nice country song sound to it.

That sound is the only thing that really attracts me to “Justified”; I don’t listen to country often, but when I stumble upon a song I like to get immersed in that simple and melancholic atmosphere. This is an unmistakable and very honest sound. I write all this while listening to “For me (for Elmore)” and I can just picture a sunset in the mountains after a hard day of manual labor.

The soundtrack album features a few country and blues songs as well and those complete the package nicely. I was actually more excited about them then about Steve Porcaro’s music. Honestly I don’t understand this release very much. If you want to give a gift to the fans of a very well received TV show which lasted for 6 years you should give them more than just 15 minutes of score. I imagine that even if I had watched the show I couldn’t get very invested in this album with so few moments to choose from.

I will now ride into the sunset and take with me just that sweet country music nostalgia that saves the last impression of the score in “Givens theme / You’ll never leave Harlan alive”.

Cue rating: 72 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 3 / 16

Album excellence: 16%


Givens theme / You’ll never leave Harlan alive

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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  1. netzfundsachen 11th September 2015

    There is a volume 2 focussing more on score tracks on – I think – iTunes only. Watched the show but haven’t heard any of the releases yet.

    1. Mihnea Manduteanu 11th September 2015

      Aha, interesting. Makes more sense, I’ll look for it and review it

      1. netzfundsachen 13th September 2015

        I was wrong actually. You actually reviewed that volume 2 I mentioned but used the cover of the first album 😉 That is primarily a song sampler.

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