O Brother, Where Art Thou? (Soundtrack): Tipstor® Pick

Summary: A stunning commercial success, the O Brother soundtrack launched a new folk renaissance, in part because its deep roots offered a soothing sense of national connection in the dawning era of post-9/11 anxiety. Like the film, these songs collectively map a land of great trouble and hope, documenting the highs and lows of a very ordinary epic—people of constant sorrow, beset by violent cases of moaning blues and beaten by wicked authority figures, looking for a little pleasure now and the promise of eternity later.

Album: O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Artist: Various Artists

Label: Mercury Nashville

REVIEW

O Brother, Where Art Thou? is a work of subversive American mythology, a hero’s hapless journey through the Depression-era South in search of love, companionship, and the promise of meager loot. Based very loosely on The Odyssey, the Coen Brothers’ film shapes a saga from national perils (like recalcitrant racism) and promises (like the thrill of still-wild spaces), building a fable from the vaporous allure of the American Dream. The Coens needed the music to match the saga, so they reached back to the rural sounds of the South, black and white, and recaptured this essence with mostly modern voices. T-Bone Burnett outfitted a Nashville studio with antediluvian recording technology, like vintage microphones arranged in specific decades-old patterns, and used it to capture a murderers’ row of bluegrass, blues, and country stars in perfect form—first Emmylou Harris, Gillian Welch, and Alison Krauss lilting through a wicked lullaby, then septuagenarian bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley staring down death without blinking.

PREVIEW