Bringing the Wild West to life in their video game soundtrack
When the music itself can help you branch out into other fields of entertainment, or other ideas, or discover new things, it becomes about something greater. That is the case in David Ferguson and Matt Sweeney’s new EP, The Music of Red Dead Redemption 2: The Housebuilding EP.
For a little context, Red Dead Redemption is a popular video game set in the 19th Century West that follows John Marston as he deals with bandits, heists and shootouts. Ferguson and Sweeney got the opportunity to make the soundtrack and looked at it a little differently. Like Disney proving that animation can have heart and integrity, these two men didn’t see this as a simple video game soundtrack, they treated it as an opportunity to put quality music out into the world.
“The Housebuilding Song” functions as the album’s first track and the music to the game’s epilogue. It also happens to be the only lyrical song of the project. Ferguson alone takes this song as it opens with a harmonica and banjo that wouldn’t seem out of place in a Western-themed amusement park ride’s waiting line. As his voice comes in, the simplicity of their way of life can be heard. The track changes to be slightly happier and more up-tempo than one might originally think. “Don’t matter the weather, we’re together,” croons Ferguson, adding to the playful, almost childlike melody.
“A Strange Kindness” was meant to play behind the thudding of horse hooves as a cowboy rides at night. An ominous acoustic guitar and the chain-clink-sounding percussion opens up the track. Little fiddle chords and other percussive flairs are thrown around the intro as if to foreshadow what’s to come in the rest of the song. Though this is only an instrumental, its personality is engaging throughout the three minutes and two seconds. A blend between classic Western musical themes and powerful melodies akin to the Game of Thrones soundtrack, this song is perfect for the setting that this video game takes place in.
“A Quiet Time” is the next instrumental to follow up on the last one. Tinny banjos team up with a careful fiddle to give a lonesome feeling. It builds to bring in drums and a bass that carries the track on. Throughout the song, little elements are added and taken away but return to the same refrain, just in a different way. Without lyrics, it can sometimes be hard to navigate the structure of a song, but not with this one.
An image of a hot, dry, Western desert is painted in the penultimate track on the EP, “The Course Of True Love.” This “chainy” percussion is circled back around to again aid the acoustic and electric guitars that guide the melody. There sounds like four separate guitars in this one, yet everything seemed very carefully placed, and one did not interfere with another—only compliment. The barren instrumental verse at the beginning is returned to conclude the song.
The last song on The Housebuilder EP is “Do Not Seek Absolution.” This one takes its own advice and doesn’t apologize for willing to be different. For a person whose brain eats up lyrics, one may not expect this to be their favorite track on the album. It begins with an acoustic guitar and a triangle laying down the foundation for what’s about to come next. Another guitar bursts onto the scene, shaping the melody in a way that sounds like a singer. Fiddles then join in to aid the guitar creating a tune that not only lends itself to background game music but also regular human ears everywhere.
Ferguson and Sweeney took something that is many times overlooked and chose to do it the right way. The Music of Red Dead Redemption 2: The Housebuilding EP is less about the music and more about how the music functions. They do an amazing job painting pictures through music without lyrics, and that’s something that doesn’t happen too much anymore, especially within the context of a video game soundtrack.