The soundtrack for the Coen Brothers' remake of the 1955 crime comedy The Ladykillers re-teams the directors and producer T-Bone Burnett, who showcases classic and contemporary gospel here in the same way he did with old-timey music on the immensely popular O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack. Donnie McClurkin, Bill Landford & the Landfordaires, and the Soul Stirrers are among the featured artists, who span nearly seven decades of gospel music. As with O Brother, Where Art Thou, crime and music also dominate The Ladykillers; the film's gang of thieves sets up headquarters in a sweet little old lady's basement under the pretense that they need a place to practice their church music. But unlike O Brother, Where Art Thou?, The Ladykillers is an update instead of a period piece, and Nappy Roots and Little Brother's fusions of hip-hop and gospel reflect the movie's contemporary setting. The soundtrack's mix of sacred and secular music is a seamless one, which makes sense considering that the Soul Stirrers were pioneers in blending gospel and secular appeal thanks in part to Sam Cooke, who sings lead on "Any Day Now" and "Jesus I'll Never Forget"; as always, his voice is equally powerful and joyous, and these songs serve as a welcome reminder of his gospel beginnings. The group's "Come, Let Us Go Back to God" is also given a contemporary remake sung by McClurkin and produced by Burnett; Burnett also co-produces radiant versions of Blind Willie Johnson's "Let Your Light Shine on Me" (which also appears in its original glory) by the Venice Four with Rose Stone and the Abbot Kinney Lighthouse Choir. The producer also includes some shape-note singing, which played a large part on his Cold Mountain soundtrack, with the track "Weeping Mary" by the Rosewell Sacred Harp Quartet. Likewise, the inclusion of Bill Landford & the Landfordaires' "Trouble of This World" and "Troubled, Lord I'm Troubled" helps celebrate this somewhat underappreciated gospel group, whose "Run On for a Long Time" was the basis of Moby's single "Run On." The Ladykillers' hip-hop songs are searching for the same salvation as its gospel songs, although they express it in different ways; Nappy Roots' "Another Day, Another Dollar" (sampling Claude Jeter and the Swan Silvertones' beautifully dark "A Christian's Plea," which is also included on the soundtrack), "Trouble in, Trouble Out," and "Trouble of this World" temper the group's Dirty South sound with a few gospel elements, but the results are distinctly hip-hop. Little Brother's "Sinners" also samples "A Christian's Plea," but his rap focuses on lust instead of greed. Another thoughtfully compiled and produced soundtrack from Burnett, The Ladykillers may or may not spark a gospel revival (so to speak), but the dedication put into creating it is clear.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares