This Cohen Brothers movie is a satirical adventure film set in 1937 rural Mississippi. A big name cast including John Goodman, George Clooney etc. really do a good job. The story revolves around escaped cons searching for buried treasure. The treasure I found lingers in this soundtrack however. The soundtrack is produced by T Bone Burnett, and the songs are a mixture of original recordings from the depression era, and newly recorded versions of period songs. The genre of music is wide and includes country, folk, blues, bluegrass, and gospel.
The album sold 8 times platinum, won the Album Of The Year, Best Country Collaboration, and Best Male Country Performer Grammys in 2002, sat on the top of the country charts for 20 weeks, was named the 38th best album in country music, and was named to the decades 50 Most Important Recordings.
Po’ Lazarus – An actual song James Carter and the Prisoners. A group of 1950’s Mississippi inmates sang this song in tune while chopping wood. It was licensed for the movie.
Big Rock Candy Mountain – A hillbilly cowboy song sung by Harry McClintock in 1928.
You Are My Sunshine – A modern recording of the classic done by old school bluegrass artist Norman Blake.
Down To The River To Pray – This traditional slave song was lifted up upon the heavens by the wonderful Alison Kraus. I dare you to not be moved by her voice. If you do not have some Alison Kraus in your collection you must rectify this right away.
I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow – A group of session musicians led by Dan Tyminski from Alison Kraus’ band. I am far from a country fan, but this is a great song. The version on the soundtrack is the radio station version. In the movie, the lead actors formed a group called The Soggy Bottom Boys and lip synced the song.
Hard Time Killing Floor Blues – Chris Thomas King (he also played in Ray) plays a blues musician in the movie, and sings this song.
I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow – Instrumental version of the song dominated by a lovely acoustic guitar.
Keep On The Sunny Side – American country vocal group The Whites do a great version of this classic.
I’ll Fly Away – Alison Kraus once again graces us with her voice and is joined by the also incredible Gillian Welch.
Didn’t Leave Nobody But The Baby – This traditional song has possibly the best trio of female country singers ever assembled. Alison Kraus, Gillian Welch and none other than Emmylou Harris join forces to sing here. The song is not as awesome as I had expected, but when 3 voices this extraordinary join, the earth may have turned too much on its axis to be perfect. The vibrato from their voices is wonderful, but it is sung in a lower pitched it does not emulate their range as much as I would have liked.
In The Highways – Sung by a very young sisters called The Peasall Sisters. At the time they were the youngest group ever nominated for a Grammy Award. I could perhaps have done without this song. It is a bit too much like a Chipmunks song to me.
I Am Weary (Let Me Rest) – Another family affair from the Bluegrass group The Cox Family. I am not sure which sister does the lead vocals, but she has a wonderful voice.
I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow – John Hartford (RIP) was dying of Non Hodgkins Lymphoma during the recording of this song. It is a wonderful fiddle piece, and the title seems to reflect the mood of the artist and his rendition of the song.
O Death – This traditional song was sung wonderfully by bluegrass musician Ralph Stanley (he died earlier this year, RIP). He sings it in what sounds to me like an old school blues song crossed with North American Native traditional song. His voice is very haunting and may actually raise the hairs on your arms.
In The Jailhouse Now – Another song with by the session musicians and credited to the Soggy Bottom Boys. However, this song is actually sung by the actor Tim Blake Nelson. It almost has Leon Redbone tone to it. I give him big props, He does a great job.
I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow – This is yet another version of this song, similar to the first one, but more focus on the bluegrass music of the band, and less emphasis on the vocals.
Indian War Whoop – Another wonderful fiddle piece by John Hartford. He is known for clogging on an amplified piece of plywood while he played, and since I am a fan of Stompin’ Tom Connors I appreciate this.
Lonesome Valley – The Fairfield Four is an American gospel group that have been around since 1921. They have been on albums and tours with John Fogerty, Dolly Parton, Amy Grant & Vince Gill. It is a traditional song, and this version may have been recorded in 2000, but could have just as easily have been recorded in 1921.
Angel Band – This 1955 recording by the bluegrass duo The Stanley Brothers is a wonderful ending to this soundtrack.
Not one bad song in the entire bunch. The young Peasall sisters song was not exactly my cup of tea, but it is sung very well and others may like it.