Music » Record Reviews

In Dolemite Is My Name Score, Scott Bomar Puts His Weight On It


“You’ve been blessed by Moses.” Those were the words uttered by none other than Isaac Hayes when he visited tracking sessions for the soundtrack to Hustle and Flow.  While that Craig Brewer film led to Three 6 Mafia winning an Oscar in 2006, much of the picture's music marked the breakout of local producer, composer, and bassist Scott Bomar, and it was during his sessions that Moses descended.

Now, with Bomar's soundtrack to Brewer's latest, Dolemite Is My Name, that blessing has come to fruition. As Bomar recently told Variety, "I would say any Memphis influence that’s in the music is through the influence of the film scores that Isaac Hayes did. Isaac...was a very big influence and mentor to Craig and I both. I feel like that blessing has continued into this project, because he would have really loved this. We use three of the musicians on the score who were in his group who played on the scores to Shaft, Tough Guys and Truck Turner: Willie Hall (on drums), Lester Snell (on keys) and Michael Toles (on guitar)."
  • Courtesy Memphis Music Hall of Fame
  • Scott Bomar & Don Bryant
Bomar has always had impeccable instincts in choosing his players, as with the globe-trotting Bo-Keys, who purvey classic soul with front men like Percy Wiggins and Don Bryant. Some of those players overlap in this project, though there are some other cameos as well: actor Craig Robinson, regional blues lifer Bobby Rush, Beale Street royalty Blind Mississippi Morris, and trombonist Fred Wesley, who played with James Brown for many years, also make appearances.

Needless to say, this is one funky, soulful soundtrack, a veritable encyclopedia of 70s motifs and riffs. Wah-wah guitar, clavinet, organ, and punchy horns abound, all grounded by the rock-solid rhythms of Bomar and drummer Willie Hall. Having said that, many imaginative flourishes abound. "Pur Your Weight On It," for example, employs some period-authentic synthesizer and unorthodox, high register bass notes to disarming effect. The campy "Ballad of a Boy and Girl," sung by Eddie Murphy and Da'Vine Joy Randolph, makes for perhaps the most powerful use of kazoo in any major motion picture soundtrack.  And, as with so many classic Isaac Hayes tracks, the heavy funk is decorated with some gorgeous orchestral embellishments.

Beyond Isaac Hayes, amidst all the pitch-perfect funkisms, there are some unexpected influences on this music. As Brewer told Variety, "I told Scott Bomar that I wanted him to treat the score for Dolemite Is My Name as if it were a little bit of like a superhero movie. I wanted there to be a “Rudy theme,” just like there would be a Luke Skywalker or Captain America theme."

Scott Bomar
  • Scott Bomar
Bomar adds, "The theme to Superman was definitely a reference for this film. With the melody that we call the Rudy theme, the first time we hear it is in the beginning of the film where he’s creating the character and experimenting with the comedy routine; by the end of it, with the music building, he’s pulling a wig out of a box in the closet, and when the wig is revealed, that’s where we first hear this theme. It’s used a few times throughout the film, and then the last time we hear it is at the end when they’re going to the premiere; when Rudy steps out of the limo, that’s where the Rudy theme is fully developed. And, definitely, the reference there was the theme from Superman.”

Aside from the two tracks sung by Robinson, the track by Bobby Rush perfectly captures the gritty roadhouse blues vibe, fired by his uncanny delivery, and Blind Mississippi Morris, accompanied by Jason Freeman, brings things down to earth as the album's closer. All in all, it's a grand survey of the sounds that make this place burn with musical passions, expertly curated and assembled by one of the city's greatest contemporary producers.

Hear Scott Bomar speak with author Robert Gordon about this and other music he's created, tonight at the Memphis Music Listening Party, Thursday, January 30, 7 pm, at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library. Free.

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