Costner and Modern West play the Val Air
Ballroom Thursday, July 12, at 8 p.m. Tickets
Kevin Costner is a man of many talents. Over
the years, he has staked his claim as actor,
director, producer (winner of two Academy Awards
and six Golden Raspberries), athlete (he’s a
scratch golfer and performed all his own on-camera
work in “Bull Durham” and “For Love of the Game”)
and businessman (Costner owns a casino in Deadwood,
and oil company BP has contracted the partially-Costner-owned
Ocean Therapy Solutions to assist with oil clean-up
in the Gulf of Mexico). But in addition, Costner
has always had a deep affinity for music. That
affinity culminated in 2007 with a phone call
Costner put in to musician and long-time friend
“John and I met in an acting class a long time
ago,” said Costner in an interview from New
York. “Neither of us had any money… it was in
an old chemical plant, and we set up a little
Coinman and Costner would go on to work together
a number of times, including playing as a trio
with Blair Forward as the band Roving Boy.
“Roving Boy didn’t last very long,” Costner
admitted. “I wanted it to, but I was the one
that pulled the plug on it… I thought ‘I don’t
want to subject myself to this extra thing.
Music or movies.’ So I concentrated on movies.”
Coinman and Costner continued to collaborate,
however, including on the movie “Dances With
Wolves,” where Coinman served as music supervisor.
So with that ’07 phone call, Costner and Coinman
— along with Forward — started putting together
the roster that would become Modern West. The
lineup would eventually be rounded out with
guitarist/producer Teddy Morgan, drummer Larry
Cobb, guitarist/backup vocalist Park Chisolm
and fiddlers Roddy Chong, Bobby Yang and Luke
The band released its first album, 2008’s “Untold
Truths,” with modest success, peaking at No.
61 on the Billboard Country charts. From there,
they settled into a surprisingly steady level
of output, releasing an album a year, starting
in 2010. Modern West’s sound is consistently
reminiscent of late ’80s heartland rock (John
Mellencamp is a common parallel used by critics),
with a strong country underpinning.
This year’s “Famous for Killing Each Other”
album features music both from and inspired
by the History Channel mini-series “Hatfields
& McCoys,” starring Costner as the Hatfield
“(Making music for the series) wasn’t a plan.
I just felt like the deeper I got into that
character, the more I studied, music started
coming out of me. I started relating that to
the band, and then the producers heard some
Costner has always had a strong connection
to the American old west, and “Hatfields &
McCoys”— and, by extension, “Famous for Killing
Each Other” — taps into that.
“Whether we want it or not, we measure ourselves
by some of our western heritage,” he said. “We
wonder, in our hearts, if we’re tough enough...
sometimes I find myself thinking about that.
How would I have fared?”
The answer, at least where “Hatfields &
McCoys” is concerned, is “quite well.” The miniseries
was watched by a record 13.9 million people
and was generally looked upon with a favorable
eye by critics.
Whether the latest album will enjoy similar
success remains to be seen. To adapt the band’s
sound to fit the time period, Modern West has
had to eschew the heartland rock and wade deeper
into what allmusic.com calls “arty Americana
in the style of T-Bone Burnett.” While the result
may not be as inspired as the soundtrack for
“O Brother, Where Art Thou?,” it’s a sound to
which Costner’s surprisingly soulful voice lends
itself easily. CV