Various Artists

Down from the Mountain: O Brother, Where Art Thou?

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Recorded at Nashville's historic Ryman Theater as a sort of a musical wrap party for the Coen Brothers' 2000 film O Brother Where Art Thou, this album offers live versions of several of the traditional American folk songs featured in the film, with a few additions along the same vein. Sounding almost like an all-traditional country episode of "A Prairie Home Companion," the guests (including Alison Krauss, Dan Tyminski, the Whites, the Fairfield Four, and the Cox Family, among others) amiably exchange songs on-stage, reveling in the atmosphere of warm country, bluegrass, and blues music. Highlights include two non-traditional tracks from Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, whose earthy compositions fit in seamlessly with the time-honored traditional songs, and Emmylou Harris' contribution "Green Pastures" (which originally appeared on Roses in the Snow, her own Americana revival album from some 20 years earlier). Some of the songs don't fare as well, unfortunately, with musician/actor Chris Thomas King's "John Law Burned Down the Liquor Sto' " sounding a bit too faux-traditional, but hometown favorites the Fairfield Four more than make up for it with their hair-raising rendition of the work song/spiritual "Po' Lazarus." Of particular note is fiddler and folklorist John Hartford's cheery rendition of the hobo fantasy "Big Rock Candy Mountain," which proved to be his last recorded performance before his death nearly a year later. The concert is recorded so well that it is occasionally surprising to hear applause at the end of the songs; the performances are so nearly flawless it is easy to forget that this was a live recording. Fans of traditional American folk music and those who have enjoyed the O Brother soundtrack will not be disappointed.

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