The soundtrack to Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood comes with more anticipation than the average various-artists, "music from the motion picture" collection because it was assembled by T-Bone Burnett, fresh from his Grammy-winning O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack. And Burnett has taken a similar approach to his work here, putting together a collection of roots music that combines vintage recordings with new versions of old songs performed in traditional styles. The anchors of the album are the original blues tracks by Jimmy Reed ("Found Love," "Little Rain," and "Ain't That Lovin' You Baby?") and the newly recorded Cajun performances of Ann Savoy ("C'est Si Triste," "Lulu Revenue dans la Village" [i.e., "Lulu's Back in Town"], and "C'est un Peche de Dire un Mentire" [i.e., "It's a Sin to Tell a Lie"]). But equally impressive are the faithful interpretations of old songs: Macy Gray's take on "I Want to Be Your Mother's Son-in-Law," which mimics the arrangement that backed Billie Holiday's version; Taj Mahal's "Keepin' out of Mischief Now," which recalls the original by its composer, Fats Waller; and Tony Bennett's version of the Nat King Cole favorite "If Yesterday Could Only Be Tomorrow." Then there are the terrific older recordings, such as Richard & Linda Thompson's "Dimming of the Day," Ray Charles' "Lonely Avenue," and Mahalia Jackson's "Walk in Jerusalem." Finally, Lauryn Hill and Bob Dylan (himself fresh from a best-song Oscar win) contribute newly written songs. Hill's "Selah" sounds like an outtake from her acoustic MTV Unplugged 2.0 album, while Dylan's "Waitin' for You," a Cajun waltz, comes off like a field recording, very much in keeping with the rest of the album. This soundtrack may not have the impact of O Brother, Where Art Thou?, but it's an impressive, varied collection of great music.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann