The film Act of Valor, currently in theaters, is the fictional story of a Navy SEAL team working to recover a kidnapped CIA operative. Like other Hollywood action films, the movie showcases adrenaline-pumping combat scenes along with other elements like modern battlefield technology. Unlike other Hollywood films, Act of Valor also features true-to-life, active-duty Navy SEALs.
To complement the film, Relativity Media released the official soundtrack, Act of Valor: The Album. Top country artists including Keith Urban, Lady Antebellum, Sugarland, Jake Owen and others appear on the record with songs they wrote for the film. Two elements about this project are particularly alluring. First, this soundtrack is less a collection of previously released music picked to match a film, and more a set of songs that were written for and inspired by the movie. Second, the majority of songs on this album were written by the artists that perform them, providing an even deeper look at the feelings and thoughts these artists have about war.
The soundtrack opens with Keith Urban’s “For You,” (co-written by Keith and Monty Powell). This song is Keith’s first written specifically for a film. Beautiful and mysterious acoustic guitar melodies run under lyrics of poignant contemplation regarding the decision to serve. Josh Kelley’s soulful “The Best of Me” (co-written by Josh, Kyle Jacobs and Rachel Thibadeaux) discusses what would provide him strength in the field, while Sugarland’s “Guide Me Home” (written by Sugarland) features lead vocals from both Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush as they sing of the faith needed to get out alive.
The songs are oftentimes dramatic and atmospheric like many movie soundtracks. Though he did not write this song himself, Trace Adkins’ deeply personal delivery on “If the Sun Comes Up” adds weight and emotion. Staring death straight in the eye, Trace’s only thoughts are wishing the best for his loved ones. The slow tempo, piano tones and synthesizers develop tension masterfully throughout the song. On “What It Takes,” Montgomery Gentry sing of inner-strength over acoustic guitars and rich piano while offering what is quite possibly the best line of the album; You wouldn’t see the war, just looking from the outside, Eddie and Troy sing in harmony.
Deep into the record, Hunter Hayes delivers one of the collection’s biggest highlights. “Where We Left Off” (co-written by Hunter and Barry Dean) is an introspective epic that starts with a sad, circling piano riff and reaches a climax of soaring guitars and a huge chorus. Though many of these songs, like Jake Owen’s “The Best I Can” (co-written by Jake and Phillip White) and Lady A’s “I Was Here” (co-written by Hillary Scott, Victoria Shaw and Gary Burr), feature hook-filled choruses and catchy melodies, the album and themes retain their honest feeling without coming off as overly pop.
Through each artist’s own voice and ability to tackle different themes relating to war, every song sounds totally fresh when played next to each other. Lori McKenna’s haunting “Two Soldiers Coming Home” and Wynonna’s “Whatever Brings You Back,” though dealing with related themes, go in completely different directions and illustrate what makes the overall soundtrack work so well. Act of Valor: The Album is in essence a concept album that is on one hand magnificently Patriotic, and on the other artistically thought-provoking.
Key tracks – Hunter Hayes’ “Where We Left Off,” Keith Urban’s “For You,” Lori McKenna’s “Two Soldiers Coming Home,” Montgomery Gentry’s “What It Takes”