CD Reviews

STEVE POLTZ: Running Wild: The Life of Dayton O. Hyde


Strolling cross the pastures and beyond One old cowboy sings his song
Through the ashes, clouds and grain
Hear the lonely whistle of that train…

Classic evocation. And so begins the tale of one man’s unique journey…

That man is Dayton O. Hyde, the singular maverick who at age 88 has spent the past 20 years establishing and maintaining a wild horse sanctuary in South Dakota. He is also the author of over 20 books ranging from narrative fiction to prose poetry and other forms of observation. Running Wild is the brand new film by director Suzanne Mitchell, who became enraptured with Hyde’s story and persevered to capture his life on film.

Mitchell knew the first time that she heard Steve Poltz on the radio that he would be the perfect musical collaborator for the film she was making on Hyde and after wading through 11 years of process (i.e., raising capital) the end result of that prolonged vision is finally here. And it’s a wonderful thing to behold.

The soundtrack for Running Wild is not like any previous release for Poltz. It has a tone and consistency that has never been fully struck before in his careening catalog of hits and misses. Running Wild is poignant in its understatement and that’s what makes listening to it such a pleasure.

Call the wind cause I’m coming back home…

The songs are some of the best of Poltz’s career, and his current singing style demonstrates quite clearly how maturity and sobriety are serving him exceptionally well. There is an even-keeled self-assurance that conveys pathos, humanity, and hope all at the same time, maintaining a mellow reverence for both the subject of the story and the natural environment where the action takes place. The vistas of Mitchell’s photography and the majesty of Poltz’s sympathetic ambience marry the two aspects together where the sum is so much greater than the parts. The soundtrack does what a great score is supposed to do: give the images and the words onscreen a deeper resonance. And in that marriage of image and sound, Running Wild is a complete bulls-eye.

But apart from how the music is used in the film, the soundtrack for Running Wild is very much a singular experience, and hearing all of the incidental music segue with one another, mixed in with the eight “proper” songs… well, the whole enterprise ties together with maximum cohesiveness.

It sounds like open-tuning heaven — relegating and celebrating to the church of the open sky expanse. Drenched in reverb, dobro, and fiddle, the tunes are chugging, driving, and rhythmic. They successfully convey movement and are swift, lyrical, and poetic in their brevity.

Running Wild is a moody surprise and a celebration of liberation, freedom, love, and justice. It’s the best thing that Steve Poltz has done. Yet. Check it out. You’ll dig it.

  • Categories

  • Archives