As a fan of the first season of True Detective and its soundtrack, I decided to find & recommend some great blues, folk and country songs. Way to kill your cravings related to the third season!
Although it’s been years since the release of the first season of HBO True Detective, its legend goes on. The story of Marty and Rust have influenced many films to come afterwards and brought a fresh breeze into the cop drama genre.
The soundtrack, composed by T-Bone Burnett, has been a significant part of the series’ solemn atmosphere. As a fan of blues and country myself, I sketched a list of 20 songs that will revive the spirit of True Detective in your playlist.
Note: I tried to link the official accounts of the mentioned artists whenever it was possible. However, out of respect, give these people a chance to make a penny and listen to their official albums on Spotify or simply get their CDs.
#20 Goodnight Texas – The Railroad
“The Railroad” by Goodnight Texas has a tremendous feeling of the modern folk. The choir singing the chorus mixed with the soft, melodic banjo, creates the lovely build-ups. While I can’t imagine it playing in the background anywhere in the series, it possess a pretty nice, country vibe.
You might want to look up “Moonshiners” by Goodnight Texas as well.
#19 Sivert Hoyem – Prisoners of the Road
A powerful voice and a guitar can together do miracles.
Sivert Hoyem’s voice is raspy and perfectly fits the solemn atmosphere of True Detective. It’s a song that I wouldn’t mind hearing in the upcoming season 3.
#18 Torgeir Waldemar – Across the River
In only seven minutes, Torgeir Waldemar has “kind of” fitted two songs (both fitting the mood we are talking about in this article). The beginning of “Across the River” is an ominous instrumental, where the guitar gently weeps along with a subtle company of hammond. Then, the song turns into a folk ballad, with Torgeir’s voice backed by a female choir. Notice the chains in the background too.
#17 Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Haunt
I love BRMC and most of their stuff is pure gold. Out of their new album, the track called “Haunt” is equally depressing and melancholic as it is climatic. It totally belongs to the forlorn world of Nic Pizzolatto’s works, given that Black Rebel Motorcycle Club has already been featured in Season 1.
#16 Songs: Ohio – The Black Crow
A deep song with Mr. Molina’s raw voice and a bit of trance-y feeling. “The Black Crow” is that kind of song, which would perfectly fit an ending of an episode. Rust and Marty driving down the Louisiana highway, the camera slowly flying up to the sky, showcasing the endless swamps of Louisiana…
#15 Willie Watson – Gallows Pole
It’s more folksy than most of the songs appearing on this list, but it gives you a hell of a Louisiana vibe. Though its more upbeat character isn’t precisely what T-Bone Burnett conjured in his score, this is still a song similar to True Detective soundtrack.
“Gallows Pole” is also cool lyrics-wise.
#14 Mark Lanegan & Duke Garwood – With Animals
It’s beyond me how none of Mark Lanegan’s works never made it to True Detective or any other famous TV series (at least to my knowledge). His impressively melodic voice, a bit similar to the vibe of Tom Waits, deserves much more credit.
THe song composed in collaboration with Duke Garwood called “With Animals” is both slightly creepy and soothing. I can totally imagine an outro featuring that song.
#13Vashti Bunyan – Train Song
The eerie vibe of Vashti Bunyan’s “Train Song” captures the oneiric atmosphere of the series. It might not be particularly dark, but when used in a powerful scene, this short music darling would resonate with power. It is very much in the mood of True Detective soundtrack.
#12 Graveyard Train – The Doomsday Cult
This Australian band has been one of my favourite Youtube findings in years. Their style is unprecedented – it’s blues that is boldly inspired by horrorcore. The result are songs that are beautifully haunting, country-influenced and simply catchy as hell. “The Doomsday Cult”, in particular, fits the “True Detective” atmosphere, mostly thanks to the specific guitar that heavily reminds of The Doors.
#11 Junior Kimbrough – Feels So Good #2
Junior Kimbrough is one of the founding fathers of blues. His guitar was as smooth as this instrument can get. The artist became a huge inspiration for many modern bands (including The Black Keys, who covered few of Junior’s songs and issued as an album).
His songs fit the atmosphere of the series and will be a unique addition to your playlist inspired by True Detective.
#10 Pearl Jam – Pendulum
Eddie Vedder is no stranger to the cinematic world. His score for “Into the Wild” has been wildly praised and a brief appearance in the album about Bob Dylan’s life (Vedder covered “All Along the Watchtower”).
“Pendulum” is rather far from what Pearl Jam got its fans used to. I adore the haunting, deep percussion and the distant, vintage sound of the guitar solo.
#9 Willis Earl Beal – Too Dry To Cry
“Too Dry To Cry” sounds like a romance between blues and black metal (if you like that kind of atmosphere, check out Zeal & Ardor). Willis’ voice is filtered with autotune a bit, but it adds a creepy, unnatural touch. The whole song brings a weird concept that I’d call cemetery blues. Not sure if such thing exists, but either way – it rocks.
#8 Bo Diddley – Bring It To Jerome
True Detective has not only used solemn music – like Townes van Zandt’s “Lungs” – but it also dug up some great black blues. Bo Diddley’s “Bring It To Jerome” would perfectly fit this idea, as the song has this chill vibe that makes you want to drive to Louisiana.
#7 Lord Huron – The World Ender
While I may agree that Lord Huron fits a lot of different styles (he became popular after being featured in “13 Reasons”), it’s the western, dark mood that he fits best. “The World Ender” is a story on its own – the lyrics are about a guy, who seeks revenge after being killed. The tango rhythm and the stylish mixing bring the likes of Quentin Tarantino and the Coen Brothers. However, it would also find a place in your “True Detective Mood” playlist.
#6 Daniel Norgren – Rattlesnake
Daniel Norgren’s pinnacle is “Moonshine Got Me”, but it’s “Rattlesnake” that definitely makes the list of the Louisiana style. There is an incredibly strong spirit of western influence here.
#5 Blind Willie Johnson – Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground
A vintage blues song that totally belongs to T-Bone Burnett’s soundtrack. Its similar vibe to “Sign of Judgment”, the humming and the deep feeling elevate Blind Willie Johnson’s song to one of these very songs that didn’t make the cut in the first season, but – if you ask me – fit its forlorn story just perfect.
And yeah, read the story about this song being the Earth’s anthem chosen by NASA in the Voyager Golden Records.
#4 White Buffalo – The Matador
Used in “Son of Anarchy”, this extremely vibrant song by White Buffalo fits every solemn kind of cinematic experience.
#3 Coulisses – Sanctuary Grounds
My hipster soul is crying that Coulisses’ music has never sailed more open waters. There is only one album, but the raw character of this viking voice and the simplicity of his compositions are soul-stirring. Plus, it’s a remarkably dark, climactic song that would fit the ending of the season just as good as “The Angry River”.
#2 Dead Man’s Bones – Lose Your Soul
Ryan Gosling, when he’s not acting, he likes to sing about dead women with his band. This particular song, as creepy as the entire album of Dead Man’s Bones, is particularly unsettling and would make any True Detective soundtrack fan cheer up.
#1 Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Devil’s Waitin’
Just stay until the end of the song. You will understand why this belongs to this list more than anything else.