Sunday, September 25, 2011


It's interesting that at the same time we're hearing all about the 20th anniversary of Nirvana's Nevermind, and its impact on music ever since, this item also comes out, celebrating its 10the birthday.  In its own way, O Brother is just as significant, a game-changer that reached much further than the several million copies it sold.  Like Nevermind, its reverberations are still being felt.  And like Nevermind, here's the Deluxe Edition if you want to buy it again.

The movie never set the box office on fire, but it was quite brilliant I thought, an artwork.  The process of how the music was selected and recorded is described in a fine new essay by producer T-Bone Burnett.  He talks about the magic of early American music, or as we came to call it when the soundtrack hit, Old Time.  What he doesn't talk about is how Americana exploded with the disc, and all of a sudden even young people were cool with bluegrass and fiddles and banjo and such, and how live music was changed in festivals and clubs.  If you think Old Man Luedecke would have had half the considerable audience he commands now without the disc, I beg to disagree.  My gosh, last weekend in Fredericton a local bar almost exclusively catering to University-age crowds had a bluegrass afternoon.  Every alternative band worth their salt has acoustic instruments now.  I'm going to argue that while 20 years ago, Nirvana put really loud (then quiet then loud) into the mainstream, O Brother made everyone unplug ten years later, at least partially.

Of course, the music of the soundtrack was excellent, as we all discovered such gems of the past as Big Rock Candy Mountain, and Man Of Constant Sorrow, and enjoyed the sight of George Clooney miming with the Soggy Bottom Boys to In The Jailhouse Now.  Well, it turns out T-Bone and crew did a great job the first time, and even though the set is expanded to with a second disc and 14 more cuts, there's not much you'll need in the extras.  Tracks that first got me excited, including those by Colin Linden and Van Dyke Parks, turn out to be short instrumentals.  Norman Blake does a nice Big Rock Candy Mountain, but it's still more fun to hear the old Henry McClintock version.  It's almost entirely made up of the same songs, but different versions.  So unless you've misplaced your first copy, it's still fine and dandy.

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