Billy Bob Thornton is the real deal. His music and songwriting are just as special to me as his movies, and the new record may just be his best yet.
On his fourth studio album, Billy Bob has created a theme album, wrapped around the issues of life and death, love and suicide. These stories of life and death combine personal stories with global visions and world concerns.
Thornton blends all of his musical influences, including roots rock, country and folk into a wonderful, original Americana sound enhanced by the guitar work of co-songwriter Brad Davis, along with bassist Leland Sklar and keyboardist Teddy Andreadis. Special guest Graham Nash also adds his beautiful vocal harmonies on several cuts. Billy Bob played drums on all of the tracks besides singing all of the lead vocals.
Great songs abound on Beautiful Door, including “In The Day,’ a song about watching one’s hometown go through changes as the years pass, how main street has been lost and the malls have closed down the mom and pop stores. It’s all about the inevitability of change.
The title track is amazing. “Beautiful Door” is a timely song about those who kill in the name of religion and politics, thinking that they will reap the rewards of their particular god on the other side of this beautiful door. The lyrics are heavy and honest, and need to be heard by everyone.
“It’s Just Me” is a totally original song idea. The song is about a person who commits suicide, and then contacts their lover to say, “Yes, I killed myself, but now I am just where I always wanted to be. Living inside of your soul.” Only a screen writer and artist like Billy Bob Thornton would come up with that piece of almost theatrical lyrical magic.
Of course, “Restin’ Your Soul” takes a totally different look at suicide, from the perspective of a person left behind after a suicide, speaking to the feelings of all of those who were devastated by the death of their loved one.
“Hearts Like Mine” is my personal favorite track on the album. An invalid looks at the world and love and all of the things he wishes he could have had or experienced. The melody and chorus are beautiful and I find myself singing it all day long. I believe this would be a great radio single.
“I Ain’t No Carnival Girl” is the only “classic country” sounding track on the record, a song about not judging a book by its cover. It’s a great song with more of Billy’s inspired lyrics.
“Her bottom lip and both ears were linked by chains/She even had a tattoo on her aura.”
“Pretty People” is a jab at the media and how they are always latching onto stories about pretty actresses and other famous people instead of covering the really important news, and “I Can Tell You” is a Beatle-esque sounding tune that deals with a war veteran meeting a girl at a bar and not knowing whether he should share all of his war experiences with her or just make small talk.
“The Boy is Gone” is another song with a hauntingly beautiful chorus. The lyrics are very sad, and very true to life. A couple deals with the loss of a son.
Beautiful Door is the perfect follow up to Thornton’s most recent album Hobo, filled with thought provoking stories and lyrics, superb musicianship and tons of heart and soul. There’s no doubt Billy Bob is one of our true Southern treasures as a gifted actor, screenwriter and producer, but he deserves just as much fame and accolades for his gifts to the music world. Give the Beautiful Door a listen. You’ll be glad you did.
-Michael Buffalo Smith