Blues has long been credited as the father of rock ‘n’ roll, but as Marcus Mumford notes in Another Day, Another Time: Celebrating the Music of 'Inside Llewyn Davis,' folk music can also lay rightful claim to its paternity.
Only Joan Baez—or as Mumford relates, thunderstruck, after being asked by her to join on “Give Me Cornbread When I’m Hungry,” “She’s f—king Joan Baez, you know!”—is from the early 1960s Greenwich Village folk scene represented in the movie, but the rest of the musicians who made the cut (besides Mumford, the Avett Brothers, T Bone Burnett, Dave Rawlings Machine, Rhiannon Giddens, Lake Street Dive, Colin Meloy, The Milk Carton Kids, Marcus Mumford, Punch Brothers, Patti Smith, Willie Watson, Gillian Welch, Jack White, and Inside Llewyn Davis’s lead actor Oscar Isaac) are right up there with her in recreating the best of the era.
High points include anything with Welch, especially “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” (with Rawlings and the Punch Brothers and featuring guitarist Rawlings and mandolinist Chris Thile’s doubling on the break) and, with Rawlings and lead singer Watson, “The Midnight Special,” followed by “I Hear Them All/This Land Is Your Land.” She remains just about the best when it comes to traditional country female vocals.
And give it up for the Avetts on Tom T. Hall’s “How I Got To Memphis,” but leave some left over for Isaacs, superb on “Green, Green Rocky Road,” a song associated with Dave Van Ronk, whose posthumous 2005 memoir The Mayor Of MacDougal Street provided source material for Inside Llewyn Davis. Based on his performances here, Isaac could easily enjoy a second career as a recording/performing artist.
About the least folky act, though, was simply stupendous: Lake Street Dive, a jazzy pop quartet fronted by Rachael Price, went full acoustic but very big on “You Go Down Smooth.”
Very big, too, and equally deserving of superstar status, was Rhiannon Giddens of the Carolina Chocolate Drops. Not only was she sensational with her Odetta-like take on folk standard “Jack Of Diamonds,” she hit on a key benefit of folk music today, for listeners as well as performers: By listening to the music of your grandparents, you inevitably find yourself.
And Giddens, with her stunning Scottish waulking song made up of meaningless vocables, also showed both folk music's timelessness and universality, same as Thile, when he announced that none of the Punch Brothers are Irish: When the group followed with a perfect-sounding a cappella performance of “The Auld Triangle” (written by Dominic Behan for his brother Brendan Behan’s 1954 Dublin prison play The Quare Fellow), they made clear that folk music really is for everyone.
But Another Day, Another Time: Celebrating The Music Of Inside Llewyn Davis also stands out for a production at least as good as any concert film, thankfully lacking in audience reaction shots while focusing on close-ups of the performers as they crowd around a single vocal mic, old-timey style.
The songs and performances are shown being built in the rehearsal studio and then Town Hall’s basement and stairwells, then presented on stage--all in the timeless fashion befitting a living music.
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