Release Date: Nov 11, 2013
Record label: Nonesuch
Genre(s): Folk, Soundtracks, Stage & Screen, Folk Revival
Inside Lleywn Davis, the latest film by the Coen brothers, is set in the Greenwich Village folk scene of 1961. It has already scooped awards at the Cannes Film Festival and with T-Bone Burnett producing the soundtrack as well as a selection of A-list guests, this record is likely to have a similar impact. .
For their picaresque adventure in the folk scene of early 1960s Greenwich Village, the Coen brothers once more call upon the midas touch of producer T-Bone Burnett. His soundtrack delivers a faithful sample of Bleecker Street's earnest, antique folkery, ably sung by actor Oscar Isaac, Justin Timberlake, Marcus Mumford and others, yet the flame that illuminated the bluegrass of the Coens' O Brother is fitful. Tom Paxton's Last Thing on My Mind is too well worn, the likes of The Roving Gambler too dull.
Unlike O Brother Where Art Thou, the Coen Brothers' previous collaboration with T-Bone Burnett, the soundtrack to Inside Llewyn Davis isn't a pastiche. Inside Llewyn Davis gains its power through precision as the whole idea of the project is capturing a specific point in time, the great Folk Scare of the early '60s, when Kingston Trio and Peter Paul & Mary were having crossover hits, the time just before Bob Dylan arrived in Greenwich Village. In other words, it was the time where Dave Van Ronk reigned supreme, and he -- and his memoir -- provides the touchstone for the Coens' remarkable Inside Llewyn Davis and, even if the lines don't strictly match, the Coens touch on truths about talent and commercialism within their film.
One could safely argue that the mainstream revival of Americana has its roots in the Coen Brothers. For decades, Americana remained a niche market until the Coens took The Anthology Of American Folk Music into the mainstream with their 2001 film O Brother, Where Art Thou?. The film’s soundtrack, which featured the likes of Alison Krauss, Emmylou Harris, and Ralph Stanley, surprisingly became a mega-selling, Grammy-winning behemoth, and it’s not difficult to see the connections between that album’s cultural moment and the current Mumford-ization of the Top 40.
Following an embattled young folksinger in 1961 Greenwich Village, Inside Llewyn Davis, the Coen brothers’ latest film, opened at Cannes in May to exuberantly positive reviews. Its original soundtrack, manned by the production-god T Bone Burnett, brings together traditional folk songs performed by the film’s stars (Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, et al) and under-circulated versions of classics from actual Greenwich-developed idols (Bob Dylan and the late Dave Van Ronk). As such, it’s a look at both the ‘60s folk revival’s humble-but-stern values and where the scene might have gone if it had been branded further than it actually was.
There's something deliciously perverse in hearing Justin Timberlake sing – gorgeously, it must be said – old-timey roots music. He's a minor character in the Coen brothers' rich Sixties-folk-revival tale, and also on this handsomely lean soundtrack, sung mostly by the fi lm's cast. His colleagues do fine, notably star Oscar Isaac (see the sweetly grim English ballad "The Death of Queen Jane") and Girls guy Adam Driver (singing bass "uh-oh!"s on the fauxperiod novelty "Please Mr.