Weeks out from theatrical release on Dec. 6, the Coen Brothers’ “Inside Llewyn Davis” has launched with the subtle noise of its soundtrack.
NPR is streaming the 14-song set in its entirety; making up half the songs are traditional folk tunes, and all featuring a diverse contributors, from the movie’s principals Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan and Justin Timberlake, to the vocals of Marcus Mumford (of Mumford & Sons), producer T Bone Burnett and the Punch Brothers.
The connection to the Coens’ “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” is obvious. Music drives both stories, and the songs stem from traditional origins. Acoustic instrumentation dominate both. And this one could possibly strike a chord with listeners like that 2000 set.
“OBWAT” was a sleeper hit on the charts, taking a whole year to reach No. 1 on The Billboard 200 — an astounding feat for an album, let alone one cut with mostly bluegrass and country music from penned mostly out of the Great Depression. It aided the careers of those like Alison Krauss and mainstays like the Stanley Brothers, in shades of morose, mystical and jubilant; it’s gone on to sell about 4.5 millions copies and yielded a re-release with an additional album of songs.
Timberlake, Mumford, the Punch Brothers’ Chris Thile, Chris Eldridge and Gabe Witcher made the rounds this weekend with a stunning take on old tune “The Auld Triangle” by English-Irish poet Brendan Behan. In its language and it’s close-to-the-mouth recording, it certainly hearkens the feelings of experiencing “O Brother” as a soundscape rather than as a mere movie.
A one-night-only super-star “Inside Llewyn Davis” concert was held at the end of the September featuring more than a dozen artists including The Avett Brothers, Joan Baez, Colin Meloy of The Decemberists, T Keb” Mo”, Mumford, Conor Oberst, Punch Brothers, Dave Rawlings Machine, Patti Smith, Gillian Welch and Jack White plus Isaac, Mulligan, Driver, Stark Sands and John Goodman. It will be broadcast on Showtime in the middle of December. With other live performances of the music, there’s also a threat of a “Llewyn Davis” concert series if the cards fall right.
But the Greenwich Village folk scene of the ’60s sows a different seed of nostalgia, these traditional tunes and this cast of characters may not resonate as much as George Clooney’s Everett McGill or the Sirens’ did. There’s also fewer female voices, which helped “OBWAT” to the infinity degree.
Or maybe, as audiences head to theaters starting on Dec. 6, they’ll catch on to their “Man of Constant Sorrow” (or, if going by Burnett’s track record, “Crazy Heart”) with Isaac and Mumford’s “Fare Thee Well (Dink’s Song).”
Listen to the “Inside Llewyn Davis” soundtrack in full here, and start judging for yourself. The soundtrack hits shelves on Nov. 11.
So far — from HitFix’s own critics — it seems the movie itself will likely be received well by Coen Bros. fans as well as from music fans. “[Isaac] has a wonderful voice but more than that, he delivers something that’s really un-teachable with his vocals: truth and experience,” Kris Tapley said. “So count that as my take on ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ for the moment: absolute captivation by Oscar Isaac, who has given, to my mind, the single best performance I’ve seen on a screen so far this year.”
But the market alone will determine a hit, you can’t force it. Based on the songs and music alone, do you think “Llewyn Davis” could possibly go the same distance “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” did?
Here is the tracklist for the soundtrack:
- “Hang Me, Oh Hang Me” (Traditional; Arranged by Oscar Isaac and T Bone Burnett) – Oscar Isaac
- “Fare Thee Well (Dink’s Song)” (Traditional; Arranged by Marcus Mumford, Oscar Isaac and T Bone Burnett) – Marcus Mumford and Oscar Isaac
- “The Last Thing on My Mind” (Tom Paxton) – Stark Sands with Punch Brothers
- “Five Hundred Miles” (Hedy West) – Justin Timberlake, Carey Mulligan and Stark Sands
- “Please Mr. Kennedy” (Ed Rush, George Cromarty, T Bone Burnett, Justin Timberlake, Joel Coen and Ethan Coen) – Oscar Isaac, Justin Timberlake and Adam Driver
- “Green, Green Rocky Road” (Len Chandler and Robert Kaufman) – Oscar Isaac
- “The Death of Queen Jane” (Traditional; Arranged by Oscar Isaac and T Bone Burnett) – Oscar Isaac
- “The Roving Gambler” (Traditional) – John Cohen with the Down Hill Strugglers
- “The Shoals of Herring” (Ewan MacColl) – Oscar Isaac with Punch Brothers
- “The Auld Triangle” (Brendan Behan) – Chris Thile, Chris Eldridge, Marcus Mumford, Justin Timberlake and Gabe Witcher
- “The Storms Are on the Ocean” (A.P. Carter) – Nancy Blake
- “Fare Thee Well (Dink’s Song) (Traditional; Arranged by Oscar Isaac) – Oscar Isaac
- “Farewell” (Bob Dylan) – Bob Dylan
- “Green, Green Rocky Road” (Len Chandler and Robert Kaufman) – Dave Van Ronk