With Joel and Ethan Coen’s music-driven and Cannes Grand Prize-winning Inside Llewyn Davis set to open Dec. 6, the brothers are way better positioned to market the film than was done for O Brother, Where Art Thou?, whose relatively obscure but classic folk-country soundtrack’s surprise success included CMA and Grammy Awards, as well as spun-off Down From The Mountain concerts and documentary DVD.
Inside Llewyn Davis, which likewise involves folk music--though contemporary to the pre-Dylan early 1960s Greenwich Village folk scene—was honored this time with a concert well in advance. Sunday night’s Another Day, Another Time: Celebrating The Music Of Inside Llewyn Davis featured both songs and artists who were in the film, along with some who weren’t but fit right in.
The concert employed the traditional single vocal microphone approach used in O Brother by that film’s Soggy Bottom Boys, though CoBros’ fans knew that house band the Punch Brothers—who also perform in Llewyn Davis--opened the show with The Big Lebowski’s opening theme “Tumbling Tumbleweeds.” From Llewyn Davis, though, came Tom Paxton’s “The Last Thing On My Mind,” sung in the movie and on the Town Hall stage by Stark Sands.
Carey Mulligan also reprised her role in the film by singing along with Sands and Elvis Costello—billed here as “understudy” for the film’s missing Justin Timberlake—on the folk classic “Five Hundred Miles.” And lead actor Oscar Isaac did two songs associated with Dave Van Ronk—“Hang Me, Oh Hang Me” and “Green, Green Rocky Road”—Van Ronk’s posthumous 2005 memoir The Mayor Of MacDougal Street having provided source material for the movie.
Isaac also joined Marcus Mumford on “Fare Thee Well,” Mumford having joined Isaac and the film’s executive music producer (and with the Coens, the concert’s co-producer) T Bone Burnett in arranging it and other soundtrack songs.
On the soundtrack, the Coens collaborated with Burnett and Timberlake on “Please Mr. Kennedy,” the film’s sole original (though based on the song by Goldcoast Singers Ed Rush and George Cromarty, who are also credited). Here Costello led the so-called John Glenn Singers, also including Isaac, Burnett and the film’s Adam Driver, in the wonderfully witty ditty about the then timely desire to be shot up into space.
Frequent Coen Brothers actor John Goodman, who has a brief but memorable part in Llewyn Davis, acted as emcee, scoring bigtime with lines like “Don’t eat the brown acid!” and “Allan Sherman couldn’t be here but Conor Oberst is!”
Oberst sang his Monsters of Folk gem “Man Named Truth” Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings, who like the Punch Brothers, were ever-present throughout the evening, and thankfully so: Rawlings, with his Dave Rawlings Machine, turned out a Dylanesque full version of “This Land Is Your Land,” while Welch revisited “Didn’t Leave Nobody But The Baby,” which she sang with Emmylou Harris and Alison Krauss on the O Brother soundtrack, this time with Mulligan and Rhiannon Giddens of the Carolina Chocolate Drops.
Giddens, by the way, was simply sensational and with her Odetta-like take on folk standard “Jack Of Diamonds” followed by a Scottish waulking song made up of meaningless vocables, seemingly superstar bound. Same with Lake Street Dive, an acoustic jazz/soul quartet that was positively thrilling on “You Go Down Smooth.”
Dylan was evoked outright when his contemporary Bob Neuwirth was reverently brought out by Patti Smith to sing his Utah Phillips-penned “Rock Salt And Nails,” and Keb’ Mo’ performed Dylan’s “Tomorrow Is A Long Time.”
And then there was Joan Baez. Smith brought her out, too, as “our undisputed humble and fierce queen.” Baez, with her longtime ace accompanist Dirk Powell, sang “House Of The Rising Sun” (which Dylan recorded early on), and with Costello, Florence Reece’s coalminers’ anthem “Which Side Are You On?”—with “new lyrics found in the desk in my house,” according to Costello.
“My cool factor just went up considerably!” proclaimed Baez after her performance with Timberlake’s understudy. And the entire evening’s cool factor, which was already in the stratosphere, skyrocketed further when Baez, the Avett Brothers and Lake Street Dive joined Smith on her own rock anthem “People Have The Power.”
Other participants worthy of note were Willie Watson, who gave “Midnight Special” a Hank Williams tone; the Secret Sisters, who were frequently paired with the Punch Brothers; the Decemberists’ Colin Meloy, who sang “Joe Hill” with Baez; and Jack White, who did a nice acoustic folk quartet version of the White Stripes’ “We’re Going To Be Friends.”
The concert, incidentally, was also a benefit for the National Recording Preservation Foundation, and will be programmed, in edited form, by Showtime on Dec. 13.
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