Soundtrack: O Brother, Where Art Thou?(Mercury)
The roots of this musical tree shoot in all directions, from black gospel and white spirituals to blues and bluegrass. The soundtrack to the latest film by George Clooney, a comedy-drama set in 1937, is a vibrant, entertaining collection of music that's fully capable of standing apart from the movie on its own musical legs.
Performers include traditionalist Ralph Stanley, who does a keening, a cappella "O Death," and veterans John Hartford and Norman Blake, who each perform an instrumental version of "I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow." The song is the centerpiece of the soundtrack and appears two more times, with other arrangements, elsewhere on the CD. Alison Krauss performs the hauntingly lovely gospel number "Down To The River To Pray" and teams with Gillian Welch for a flowing "I'll Fly Away." Emmylou Harris joins Welch and Krauss on the wry "Didn't Leave Nobody But The Baby."
There's traditional gospel on "Lonesome Valley" by the Fairfield Four, who also make an appearance in the film as gravediggers.
Producer T. Bone Burnett features original period music with Harry McClintock's folksy fantasy "Big Rock Candy Mountain," and hews closely to musical authenticity on all 18 tracks, even when relying on modern-day studio technology to get the sound in the grooves.
This set has the texture and depth of a vivid historical document, to be sure, but the music is also infused with energy and emotion. Anyone interested in the roots of country music will find a lot to enjoy here.
-- Mark Marymont