Various Artists

I'm a Man of Constant Sorrow

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Though it was obviously released simply to capitalize on the resurgence of interest in old-timey music occasioned by the success of O Brother, Where Art Thou?, the 20-track collection I'm a Man of Constant Sorrow is an amazing, practically faultless compilation. Virtually every song here is a classic, whether for fans of old-timey, country, early blues, or gospel. Of the two tracks with the most interest for O Brother fans, only Harry McClintock's "Big Rock Candy Mountain" is the version heard in the movie, though the other -- the title track sung by the Stanley Brothers -- is the original on which the movie version was based (it betters the performance, if not the sound quality). Also of direct interest are "Keep on the Sunny Side" by the Carter Family, "In the Jailhouse Now" by Jimmie Rodgers, and "You Are My Sunshine" by Jimmie Davis (the last an early country star and later governor of Tennessee). Though few other inclusions have a connection to the movie, I'm a Man of Constant Sorrow succeeds on its mission of surrounding the events of the movie with a range of excellent roots music: hot fiddle music from Hoyt Ming & His Pep-Steppers, Bill Monroe, and Fiddlin' Sam Long, apocalyptic blues from Blind Willie Johnson, Skip James, and Dock Boggs, a rollicking banjo tune by Uncle Dave Macon, Louis Armstrong and Bessie Smith's historic collaboration on the classic "St. Louis Blues," and one of the seminal gospel sides of all time: "Golden Gate Gospel Train" by the Golden Gate Quartet. It may be hard to find -- the label, Country Stars, is based in the Netherlands, though it is heavily distributed elsewhere -- and the songs are available elsewhere, but few collections bring so many important songs together onto one disc.

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