Back in 2000, the Coen Brothers directed O Brother Where Art Thou. You might remember the screwball comedy featuring George Clooney as an escaped convict trying to get back to his family in the South of the 1930s. More likely, you remember the film's soundtrack, which sold more than 7 million copies, won a Grammy for Album of the Year, and singlehandedly started a bluegrass craze.
Now the Coen Brothers are trying to see if lightning can strike twice and are again reviving a neglected musical genre. Their new movie, Inside Llewyn Davis, due out in December, takes place in the folk scene of early 1960s New York. The buzz from Cannes is that it is another comedy classic from the brothers Coen, based loosely on the life of folk singer Dave Van Ronk (but since O Brother Where Art Thou claimed to be based on Homer's The Odyssey, you can take that with a grain of salt). But more excitement is brewing around the new film's soundtrack produced by O Brother's producer, T-Bone Burnett.
Unlike the O Brother soundtrack, which called on bluegrass veterans like Ralph Stanley and Emmylou Harris, the majority of Inside's soundtrack has the film's cast singing the folk songs. Sure you might not be excited about Oscar Isaac and Carey Mulligan singing, but what if we told you that Justin Timberlake was among the cast and that Marcus Mumford from Mumford and Sons does some guest duties?
You can decide the merits of the soundtrack for yourself, as the entire 14-track album is streaming for free on NPR. To this critic's ears, two of the songs featuring Mr. Timberlake, "Five Hundred Miles" and "Please, Mr. Kennedy," are the highlights of the album, even topping old Bob Dylan and Dave Van Ronk numbers.