Boomkat Product Review:
"The Hired Hand" was the film that marked Peter Fonda's directorial debut, and it also gave birth to one of the most sought-after and influential soundtracks of the 1970's. It veers from dusted Americana to more pastoral, experimental pieces, culminating in a closing track that sounds like Boards of Canda's earliest wildlife documentary interludes.
Bruce Langhorne's haunting soundtrack plays off the fact that the movie touches on the Western genre without actually committing to it. Consequently, Langhorne's music dips into the idiom at whim but never descends into the realm of cliché. The atmospheric, disembodied Americana of 'Dead Girl' and 'Leaving Del Norte' have an undeniable poetry to them, distilling cinematic atmospherics into just a few brief moments of impeccably judged guitar work.
More substantially, the remarkable 'Riding Thru The Rain' is comprised of ghostly banjo arpeggios, liquid lapsteel playing and ringing piano chords heard quietly in the distance. The production of these recordings is incredibly effective, something made all the more remarkable by the fact that Langhorne assembled each piece alongside his girlfriend Natalie Mucyn, who with no prior mixing or editing experience multitracked the recording via some distinctly lo-fi tape dubbing.
The fact that the recordings are so well balanced is barely short of a miracle, and perhaps it was this technique that makes certain elements of the soundtrack sound so bizarre and at times, mystical. The harmonised flutes of 'Windmill' sound uncannily like something from Black Dice's first album, resembling some sort of otherworldly birdsong. There are moments of sheer lyrical brilliance here too: 'Spring' is but a brief miniature for violin and acoustic guitar yet it provides a resolute, very tangible intimacy and the closing "Ending" is the longest, most complete track here, bringing many of the soundtrack's elements together for a final, harmonious flourish that was so ahead of its time it sounds uncannily like vintage Boards of Canada in interlude mode - in fact I'd be very surprised if this soundtrack didn't influence them in some way.
Nothing short of a lost classic - we implore you to check it out.