New Music: “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” Soundtrack – A Hidden Bluegrass Gem?
UPDATED: December 1, 2023
UPDATED: December 1, 2023

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes Soundtrack is a Modern O Brother, Where art Thou?

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t initially dismiss this album. In fact, I first encountered Winters Come and Gone in a Charles Wesley Godwin playlist. Upon closer inspection, I was fascinated to discover that Mr. Godwin had been enlisted by a major movie studio with a $100 million budget to contribute to their soundtrack. Even more intriguing is the film in question—the latest Hunger Games installment, titled The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. Perhaps the title is fitting given the nature of the album, but I was pleasantly surprised at how damn great this soundtrack actually is.  I imagine fans of roots music might be put off by the title and dismiss its content, much like I initially did, but that’s a regrettable mistake. This soundtrack is a thoughtful and sincere compilation featuring some of the genre’s best instrumentalists and songwriters. Truthfully, this record is essentially a modern-day version of  O Brother, Where Art Thou? concealed behind the facade of an angsty teen novel.

Rachel Zegler

Now, I won’t deny that there are moments that detract from the record and serve as reminders that it’s part of a new Hollywood blockbuster, presumably intended to kick off a 15-year trilogy. Apart from the “actual” songs on the record, there are multiple clips from the movie itself. Although I’ve seen the previous movies, I wouldn’t consider myself well-versed in the Hunger Games lore. After a bit of research, the purpose of this album becomes clearer. The film’s protagonist, Lucy Gray, played by Rachel Zegler, is a member of the Covey Band (who make appearances throughout the record), and the movie follows her, highlighting her use of music to spread hope and protest. I’m ashamed to admit it…but I’m kind of on board now.

With that said, Rachel Zegler, the lead actress of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes,” truly shines, as approximately 50% of the songs are performed by her or feature soundbites from the movie with her. She showcases her vocal chops and range in The Ballad of Lucy Gray Baird, a song that, truthfully, would make me crave an entire folk album from Ms. Zegler. Her voice is enchanting and solidifies her place among the talent on this album.

Featured Artists

In my opinion, the album’s real brilliance lies in diverse artist lineup. Olivia Rodrigo, a fantastic songwriter in her own right, opens the record with Can’t Catch Me Now. Rodrigo never fails to captivate with her sultry voice and cursive singing style. Shortly after, Flatland Cavalry delivers a lyrically dense Wool, evoking a dark sense of monsters. Americana powerhouse Sierra Ferrell presents a beautiful, sorrow-stricken ballad longing for The Garden. Legends Molly Tuttle and Billy Strings make appearances in Bury Me Beneath the Willow and Cabin Song, both brilliant and as expected from Bluegrass Royalty. Bella White’s contribution, Burn Me Once, is truly beautiful. White’s voice is like a siren drawing you in with her unique vocal breaks.

Final Thoughts

The whole point of this article is to make all you roots fans aware that this is an album you shouldn’t pass up. Reviewing it as a whole wouldn’t be fair, as that’s not its intention. I know it might sound cliché to use the phrase “hidden gem,” but in this situation, that’s precisely what it is. If Charles Wesley Godwin hadn’t led me here, I would have proudly missed the entire show. I’m not certain about how this album is being released, as there seem to be variations in the track listing, some containing original orchestral scores from the movie. However, as of today, Spotify lists it with 17 tracks, including all of the aforementioned artists. All in all….

“The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” has the potential to stand on its own as a solid Bluegrass and Folk Album.

 

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