I recently watched Netflix’s The Harder They Fall, a western which follows Nat Love (played by Jonathan Majors) and his gang as he attempts to get revenge against Rufus Buck (played by Idris Elba).
The movie was fun, heartfelt, and blasted open my obsession with westerns. The movie also had a fantastic soundtrack that only added to tense or funny moments.
As with any genre, westerns have a formula and certain tropes/plot points that will most likely get hit throughout the couple-hour story.
So below are some modern-day country songs and the western movie trope/scene it would be in the background of (in no particular order).
“The Devil Wears a Suit and Tie” by Colter Wall
Honestly, I don’t know if this song fits a specific trope or if the song just has western vibes.
Either way, Colter Wall’s deep voice paired with lyrics about the devil would make the perfect backdrop to the introduction of the main villain of the story or simply the first view of the old (maybe corrupt) town.
Memorable lyric: “Don’t you know the devil wears a suit and tie”
“The Sea” by Sierra Ferrell
Any time a movie takes place in the heat and desert for too long, a character is most likely going to drink some bad liquor or get some sort of heat stroke.
Thus, the hallucination of an oasis.
What better song than Sierra Ferrell’s haunting sea shanty-esque “The Sea” to be playing as one of the cowboys or outlaws hallucinates the water they desperately need.
Memorable lyric: “If you find yourself goin’ under / You’ll remember the taste”
“Lost Woman’s Prayer” by Emily Scott Robinson
Many westerns include the saloon girl with a tragic backstory or a heart of gold that becomes a love interest for the protagonist.
Emily Scott Robinson honestly has quite a few songs to choose from that could fit this trope because she sings so much about complex women.
“Lost Woman’s Prayer,” though, has a similar haunting vibe as the previous two songs and discusses a sisterhood that portrays a more universal complex femininity.
Memorable lyric: “Pull your dusty dreams down off the shelf”
“Birmingham” by Zach Bryan
I mean, there has to be a good ol’ fashioned murder ballad in the mix here.
Again, country music has plenty of murder ballads, but Zach Bryan’s presents a complicated murderer whose story could balance a villain’s murderous tendencies with the reasons behind the murders and show the villain as a more three-dimensional character.
Memorable lyric: “I am not a bad man but there’s bullets in my skin”
“Blood Feud” by Charles Wesley Godwin
What’s a western movie without a good revenge plot or blood feud?
Plus, this song tells of a man preparing for a fight with another man he’s in blood feud with.
While the song shows the man being murdered not knowing why, the tension this song evokes would be perfect for a shoot-out or the ending stand-off.
Memorable lyric: “I didn’t leave my house dressed to die”
“Hell’s Comin’ With Me” by Poor Mans Poison
Not every western hero needs to be a white-hat-wearing cowboy, sometimes the hero is an outlaw or an outcast or just someone done wrong by the town they called home.
This song discusses corruption and revenge, both of which would be the perfect entrance for a scarred, lone protagonist.
Memorable lyric: “But he came back to burn that town to the ground”
“Dead Horses” by The Local Honeys
You have to have a horse song in a western movie.
I don’t make the rules. Horses are just really important.
Memorable lyric: “I never got used to watching horses die”
“Welcome to Hard Times” by Charley Crockett
Last but not least, a song about gambling and the hard times of life.
This song could be playing as the wooden door first swings open to reveal the saloon full of people drinking, gambling, and talking.
If you wanted to be real on the nose, the saloon could be called Hard Times.
Memorable lyric: “Do you like sinnin’? No? / Well, you will before you go”