Archived Story

Back to the movies with folk

Published 12:48pm Friday, November 8, 2013

T-Bone Burnett and the Coen Brothers have teamed up again to produce a vibrant film soundtrack, but with a much different tone of their prior work.

The soundtrack for “Inside Llewen Davis” is a beautiful collection of 1960s-era folks songs, but it may mirror the success of a prior Coen Brothers and Burnett collaborations.

Joel and Ethan Coen, the Academy award winning film-making duo from the Twin Cities, and Burnett are no strangers to music-centered period pieces. Burnett won the Grammy for Album of the Year for the soundtrack for “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” — a 2000 Coen Brothers film centered on depression-era country and blues.

While “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” was a comedy featuring lively music, the Coen brothers’ look into the early 1960s folk scene appears much more somber.

Songs like “Hang Me, Oh Hang Me” — the opening track of the soundtrack sung by star Oscar Isaac, who plays Llewyn Davis — and Bob Dylan’s “Farewell” set the tone for a solemn, reflective soundtrack.

Burnett got plenty of help from big-named talent. Justin Timberlake appears in the film and is featured on the soundtrack, and Marcus Mumford of Mumford and Sons sang on a few tracks. However, it’s the film’s star Isaac who rightfully stars on the soundtrack.

The music is lively and playful at times, like with “Please Mr. Kennedy,” a song reminiscent of an upbeat Peter, Paul and Mary tune. But most of the album — and the film’s tone — appear bent on souring the idealism that commonly surrounds the 1960s folk scene today.

Just as with the “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” soundtrack, this album features many well-known songs, producing historical context for the fictional story. That makes it an album listeners can easily relate to. There’s a rendition of the old folk tune “500 Miles,” perhaps best known for the rendition by Peter, Paul and Mary. Songs like Dylan’s “Farewell,” “Fare Thee Well (Dink’s Song)” and “Green, Green Rocky Road” are also ones many have likely heard before.

But rather than bright, cheery feel of the “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” soundtrack, these songs are tailored for a cold, clouded winter on the streets of New York.

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