If like me you thought this was Patrick Doyle having a crack at a Western, then you would be somewhat mistaken. While the film apparently tried to inject some kind of Western elements into its narrative (ie. being outlaws), it is essentially a slightly whimsical family drama. It's all set in Ireland as a father brings a horse to his tower block for his children. Of course it is confiscated and then they steal it and run free like outlaws who have only committed one not terribly bad crime. Apparently it was very good, but outside the context of the score I've never heard of it. The first half is filled with pop songs which range from the rather nice - Eyes of a Child and In A Lifetime are both extremely good - to the pretty awful - Lulu's terribly out of place How 'Bout Us and Garden of Joy (the song, as well as the name of the band) whose second contribution leaves a lot to be desired. Featuring Clannad and the like brings the faintly authentic Irishness to the selection, although it's still missing Sinead O'Connor and U2.
The setting of the film gave Patrick Doyle the chance to put a more culturally diverse slant on his style and comes out with a somewhat overlooked gem. The main theme is a somewhat bleak, but folksy and nicely authentic sounding Celtic song introduced in The Blue Sea and The White Horse. The words of the poem to Tir-Na-Nog were used, which as Doyle states in the brief, but interesting notes, represents the Mother. The vocal part is performed by Patrick Doyle's sister, Margaret and I definitely think that the composer made absolutely the right choice. There is a certain style of vocalisation to Celtic singing and Margaret Doyle brings that quality to the music just perfectly. The melody is used on occasion throughout the score, sometimes with the vocals and sometimes without, but always brings a timeless and mystical quality.
Alongside the quiter folksy elements, there are a few token moments of excitement which are all written in a very suitably idomatic style that uses Doyle's love of string runs to great effect. In some ways the immediacy of the writing and the intensity of the playing make some of these moments much more exciting than those filled with electronic percussion and overdoses of brass. A remarkable achievement in the current film music climate, but a welcome one indeed. However, most of the music has a much more folksy and rather sombre style to it that highlights strings and woodwinds, with only brass appearing in some of the more robust cues such as the very exciting Boy Under the Sea.
While Doyle is not exactly top on the list of composers when requiring music for family films, I would suggest that he's one of the most best and most underrated. This absolutely outstanding score, along with the equally brilliant A Little Princess far exceed the quality of music written for so many family films these days. Of course, it does help that both of these films had a decent amount of dramatic substance, which is another quality so often lacking in modern family films. The album seems quite hard to find these days, so if you find it I would strongly suggest picking it up since it is really quite wonderful. The rating is for the album as a whole, but the score is almost certainly worth the extra star.