20 TV shows with the best soundtracks and music

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As one of the smartest, most well-adapted contributions to the modern Western, Justified is one hell of a cops-and-robbers show. Set in rural eastern Kentucky, the show never flinches from its bluegrass roots, offering a critical, but respectful look at an often overlooked and under-appreciated community.

I’m often leery of shows set in the South, especially the rural South, as they often reduce us to clichés and insulting stereotypes. Justified never does this, even as it tells the story of “hillbillies” and folks from the “hollers.” Timothy Olyphant plays US Marshall Raylan Givens, returning to his hometown of Harlan, Kentucky from Miami, only to find he must face off against his childhood friend Boyd Crowder. Boyd took a very different path, becoming an outlaw and criminal.

Honoring the spirit of its Kentucky home, the show’s music evolves from traditional country to a complex combination of Americana, blue grass, and folk — a nice representation of the culture in this part of the country.  Artists like the Drive by Truckers (formerly Jason Isbell’s band), Gillian Welch and Lynda Kay find their way into the early episodes, offering fans a comforting, yet genuine Kentucky sound.

The intro music, “Long Hard Times to Come” by Gangstagrass, offers an infusion of funky hip-hop to the bluegrass we know, and it won an Emmy Award in 2010 for Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music. Brad Paisley’s cover of “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” is one of the most haunting and poignant tributes, especially if you are a fan of the show and understand the mythology of “digging coal together.”