While Craig Safan impressed with his big-budget 80s orchestral scores for THE LAST STARFIGHTER and REMO WILLIAMS, the composer was first at home with a smaller sound that particularly befitted the drive-in speakers of red state America during the 1970s- two cases in point being the south-sploitation cult favorites THE GREAT SMOKEY ROADBLACK and THE GREAT TEXAS DYNAMITE CHASE.

First up is a 1976 Henry Fonda vehicle whose title road the coattails of SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT knock-offs, while the film itself was a far more serious trucker flick about facing one’s final run by smashing into a bunch of black and white’s. Suitably not going for anything too exciting given this classic old codger, Safan’s score is laid back and folksy, playing with a bare bones, nicely sentimental orchestra that’s just right for an actor who personified a feisty hometown spirit. But what makes SMOKEY stand out is its wry humor for the guitar, eccentric pickin’ that comes across as being equally suited for slow country escapades as it does a Jewish Klezmer band, though a bit of gospel organ and quotes of “Dixie” firmly place ROADBLACK in the south. At other stylistic directional points, Safan jams the pedal with fusion of jazz, Dobro guitar and military percussion, trying to catch every stylistic signpost from Randy Newman to Aaron Copland on this dust-eating ride.

Safan is far more down home and vivacious tossing DYNAMITE for the great, late Playboy centerfold Claudia Jennings. Starting out with a catchy country-jazz funk theme song, CHASE rolls out a fun pursuit in the roadhouse action spirit of WHITE LIGHTNING, albeit a lot less seriously. Horns, ukulele, stride piano, harmonica and banjo keep the hotpants and fuses burning with energetic sass for these bank robbin’ vixens. It’s rollicking redneck exploitation music that shows off Safan’s equal talent at playing good old boys and girls, as he’d later have with spaceships and super vigilantes.

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