The Sons of Anarchy soundtrack is diverse. Extremely diverse. With everything from soulful indie music to hard hitting roots rock, Kurt Sutter pulls from a variety of genres to bring his band of outlaws to life. This is my top ten list of the best soundtrack moments from SOA.
Number Ten: “This Life” by Curtis Stigers and The Forest Rangers
This pick might seem obvious, but in my opinion, it’s a crucial one. Everything in this song is perfect. From Stiger’s snarling vocals, to the wailing guitar interspersed over the acoustic D chord jam that makes up the backbone of the song. Nothing makes you want to live fast and die hard like this ballad of the highway to hell.
Number Nine: “Come Healing” by Leonard Cohen
This number accompanies one of the most poignant moments in Sons. At the end of season six’s opening “Straw”, the song plays over a medley of dark moments for SAMCRO. The sweet, melodic voices of the background singers stand in stark contrast to the brutal phantasmagoria of the scenes.
I won’t spoil what happens, but trust me when I say that Cohen’s song works perfectly here. The soft electric piano chords support Cohen’s singing voice. You can hear the aging and frail quality in his performance, and it adds to the segment masterfully. Even if you’re a veteran Sons fan, go back and give “Straw” a watch. This sequence is one for the books.
Number Eight: “Hey Hey, My My” by BattleMe
BattleMe is a little known singer-songwriter from Seattle who collaborates frequently with The Forest Rangers. Overall, his most notable contribution to the show is his spacey cover of Neil Young’s “Hey Hey, My My”. While Young’s version has a much more folk influenced sound, BattleMe goes a totally different direction. He adapts it with down tempo piano, high pitched vocal melody and a spectacular adaptation of the main guitar riff. A gentle (but still moving) piece any good Sons fan should know.
Number Seven: “Forever Young” by Audra Mae
This soulful rendition of the Bob Dylan original has a distinct bluegrass flavor. In my opinion (and this might get me reamed) Audra Mae’s version is the superior one. While Dylan is undoubtedly a legend, his harsh and nasally vocals take away from the nostalgic feeling that Audra Mae’s gentle crooning gives her cover. The banjo, mandolin, and acoustic guitar that make it feel much more soulful as well.
Number Six: “Bird On A Wire” By Katey Sagal & The Forest Rangers
This is a track that was not only written by one of the greatest musicians of the 20th century (Leonard Cohen) but was covered by iconic country musician Johnny Cash. Katey Sagal had some big shoes to fill on this one. But where Cohen’s is a downtrodden folk song with a melancholic violin accompaniment, and Cash’s is a stripped down acoustic, Sagal comes through with a soaring and soulful rendition. Aided in no small part by a swinging rhythm that pumps new energy into the song. Hats off, Katey!
Number Five: “Strange Fruit” by Katey Sagal & The Forest Rangers
Another on the list of Katey Sagal pulling off extraordinarily difficult covers. Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” is a difficult song to grapple with. The original is a piano ballad about racial lynchings in the American South. To try and transfer such a difficult and heavy song to a soundtrack for an FX show must have been no easy task. But Sagal’s adaption of the material into a bluesy, moody song works well without coming off as tacky. A great cover by a talented performer.
Number Four: “House Of The Rising Sun” by The White Buffalo
The original “House Of The Rising Sun” was a streamlining of an old American folk song into a more compatible form for contemporary audiences. Which is why The White Buffalo’s updated lyrics about Charming fits. A song that is inherently versatile, and without specific origin or definitive lyrics, was the perfect choice for tailoring to the saga of the Sons. With a groovy backbeat and stellar electric guitar accompaniment, this cover would have made the top three if the other choices weren’t such strong contenders.
Number Three: “Son Of A Preacher Man” by Katey Sagal and The Forest Rangers
For the amount of work the Forest Rangers put in on this soundtrack, they don’t get a lot of opportunity to show off their versatility. With it’s gospel backing vocals and southern boogie vibe, it really gives the boys over in Sutter’s house band a chance to go wild. The guitar licks are clean and energetic, and the subtle organ gives Sagal’s vocals a great companion. Very “Sweet Home Alabama” feeling. The piano is also spectacular- that alone hands it the number three spot.
Number Two: “Day Is Gone” Noah Gunderson
Noah Gunderson contributed two great pieces to the soundtrack of SOA, and it was a difficult decision whether “Day Is Gone” or “Family” won out. But, given that this is an original, and has such spectacular instrumentation to go along with the melancholy lyrics about loss and defeat, “Day Is Gone” ended up taking our number two spot. The song begins with a soft acoustic riff, but fills up with reverb washed guitar that propels Gunderson’s vocal swell towards the climax of the song. A great, touching number overall.
Number One: “Someday Never Comes” by Billy Valentine
CCR might have penned the song, but Billy Valentine delivered the version that perfectly encapsulates the essence of Sons of Anarchy. The lyrics deal with themes of family, loss, and growing up. Valentine gives it a frantic energy that slows down for the verses for a gospel influenced delivery. The song is not only good, but the style and lyrics make it the perfect song for Sons of Anarchy. If you ever have to explain what the show means, both literally and figuratively, just point them here. As Valentine sings- someday they’ll understand.