Sunday, February 1, 2015


The Coen Brothers spent as much time making sure the music from their film Inside Llewyn Davis would be accurate and good as they did on the filming, so it's not surprise the concept holds up well outside the world they created. Done as a companion concert event to the film, this is the two-plus hours of from that show, as opposed to the album soundtrack. You may have seen it flipping by your choices on Netflix, and it's a worthy view, as well as a tremendous listen.

The cast on for the concert is made of folks who contributed to film, as well as regular pals of music supervisor T Bone Burnett's, plus a few actual period folk stars. If you don't know the film, it is fictional, set in Greenwich Village just before the arrival of Bob Dylan on the scene. The Coens and Burnett found a mix of classics, vintage choices and even a couple of new numbers crafted for the plot. Main star Oscar Isaac is here, cast as star largely for his musical talents, and he pulls off a fine Green, Green Rocky Road and Hang Me, Oh Hang Me, just like in the movie. Marcus Mumford was a major contributor, and appears for some classic Dylan-associated tunes. The Punch Brothers made a lot of concert work, their peerless instrumentation on hand for the night, as well as their own contributions, including opener Tumbling Tumbleweeds (The Sons of the Pioneers number, written by Winnipeg and New Brunswick-raised Bob Nolan, BTW).

Justin Timberlake was just great in the film, but he didn't show for the concert, probably because he knew his out-sized celebrity didn't fit. Instead, Elvis Costello subs, doing the tongue-in-cheek Please Mr. Kennedy, along with Isaac and the Punch Bros. The quality guests keep coming, including Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings, Keb' Mo', The Avett Brothers, Conor Oberst, Lake Street Dive, Jack White and The Secret Sisters. Just like in the movie, Dylan doesn't appear, but his spirit in felt in several songs, and his old running buddy Bobby Neuwirth does a show-stopper with Rock Salt and Nails. Just to let you know everything was being done well, Joan Baez was on hand for a few numbers, including the union anthem Joe Hill.

I've had my issues with some of the current folk crop, including the Mumfords and Avetts, but it was good to here them in context with all this other quality folk. Their music matched the rest that night, the Punch Brothers showed how to modernize and still keep the essence, there were some lighthearted moments, but mostly it's a scintillating listen, with noteworthy performances by almost all. What could have come off like a PBS pledge drive, or even worse, like the real version of the spoof A Mighty Wind, instead is a triumph for folk.

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