A Blog of One’s Own

Primary Source: American Revival of Roots Music

“O Brother Where Art Thou?” was possibly more successful mucisaly. With a 2002 Grammy winning soundtrack compiled by artist T Bone Burnett, various artistist include Allison Krauss along with other modern artists in the Folk genre covering authentic songs from and before the 1930s. 

Cultural historian Benjamin Filene criticizes the revival stirred by the movie as “folk chic,” but he also recognizes that  “O Brother Where Art Thou?” recreates more than just forgotten songs. Americana and the music that falls into that label is an original American creation. But it is not a homogenous one. “Folk” music includes everything from gospel, to bluegrass, to blues, to spiritual and gave birth to American Jazz, Country, and Rock, something entirely America’s own, not held to European standards as much of our art used to be. “O Brother” incorporates all these types with the traditional camp-town song “You Are My Sunshine” to “Po’ Lazarus” from voices of the chain gang. The hit song “Man of Constant Sorrow” sounds most like modern Country. Although using all original recordings may have been more accurate in portraying the film’s era but the having most of the music reworked is a tribute to the spirit of the patchwork genre, that collaboration and evolution is fundamental. 

Bluegrass concerts are now being much more widely attended today because of the film’s influence and promotion eight years ago. In 2002, Christopher Guest capitalized on the new trend, making fun of the Bluegrass scene in America through “A Mighty Wind.” This movie would have completely irrelevant even for Christopher Guest fans if not for The Coen Brothers re-popularizing the genre and getting it into the mainstream. 

The Coen Brothers’ personal love of this music is obvious. “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” speaks to age old themes of wanderers seeking home, family, and a hopeful future in a colorful, sometimes perplexing world. But its true relevance in its time is undoubtably its tribute to original American music within a modern American culture.


“O Brother, Where Art Thou?” Soundtrack

1.  Po Lazarus
  RA | WAV | WMA
  Performed by James Carter & the Prisoners (1959)
2.  Big Rock Candy Mountain
  Performed by Harry Kirby McClintock (1928)
3.  You Are My Sunshine
  RA | WAV | WMA
  Performed by Norman Blake
Norman Blake – Guitar and Vocal; Barry Bales – Bass; Curtis Burch – Dobro; Mike Compton – Mandolin
4.  Down To The River To Pray
  RA | WAV | WMA
  Performed by Alison Krauss
Additional Vocals: First Baptist Church Choir of White House, TN, Norman Blake, Dub Cornett, Pat Enright, Porter McLister, Tim O’Brien, Maura O’Connell, Sam Phillips, David Rawlings, Gillian Welch
5.  I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow
  RA | WAV | WMA
  Performed by The Soggy Bottom Boys featuring Dan Tyminski
Dan Tyminski – Lead Vocal and Guitar; Pat Enright – Harmony Vocals; Harley Allen – Harmony Vocals
© 2001 Lost Highway Records, a Universal Music Company
6.  Hard Time Killing Floor Blues
  RA | WAV | WMA
  Performed by Chris Thomas King
Chris Thomas King – Vocals and Guitar
7.  I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow
  RA | WAV | WMA
  Performed by Norman Blake
8.  Keep On The Sunny Side
  RA | WAV | WMA
  Performed by The Whites
Sharon White – Lead Vocal and Guitar; Buck White – Harmony Vocal and Mandolin; Cheryl White – Harmony Vocal and Bass; Jerry Douglas – Dobro
9.  I’ll Fly Away
  RA | WAV | WMA
  Performed by Gillian Welch and Alison Krauss
Gillian Welsh – Lead Vocal; Alison Krauss – Harmony Vocal; Mike Compton – Mandolin; Chris Sharp – Guitar
10.  Didn’t Leave Nobody But The Baby
  RA | WAV | WMA
  Performed by Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss and Gillian Welch      


11.  In The Highways
  RA | WAV | WMA
  Performed by Sarah, Hannah and Leah Peasall
Hannah Peasall – Lead Vocal; Sarah Peasall – Harmony Vocals; Leah Peasall – Harmony Vocals; Chris Sharp – Guitar


12.  I Am Weary (Let Me Rest)   RA | WAV | WMA   Performed by The Cox Family
Suzanne Cox – Lead Vocal and Mandolin; Sidney Cox – Banjo and Harmony Vocal; Willard Cox – Harmony Vocal; Evelyn Cox – Guitar; Barry Bales – Bass; John Hartford – Fiddle   13.  I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow   RA | WAV | WMA   Performed by John HartfordPerformed by The Soggy Bottom Boys Tim Blake Nelson – Lead Vocal; Pat Enright – Yodel; Barry Bales – Bass; Dan Tyminski – Guitar; Norman Blake – Guitar; Stuart Duncan – Fiddle; Sam Bush – Mandolin; Ron Block – Banjo; Jerry Douglas – Dobro  14.  O Death   RA | WAV | WMA   Performed by Ralph Stanley   15.  In The Jailhouse Now   RA | WAV | WMA
16.  I Am A Man of Constant Sorrow
  RA | WAV | WMA
  Performed by The Soggy Bottom Boys
Dan Tyminski – Lead Vocal and Guitar; Pat Enright – Harmony Vocals; Harley Allen – Harmony Vocals; Barry Bales – Bass; Jerry Douglas – Dobro; Chris Sharp – Guitar; Ron Block – Banjo; Mike Compton – Mandolin; Stuart Duncan – Fiddle
17.  Indian War Whoop
  RA | WAV | WMA
  Performed by John Hartford
John Hartford – Vocals and Fiddle; Chris Sharp – Mandolin; Mike Compton – Guitar
18.  Lonesome Valley
  RA | WAV | WMA
  Performed by Fairfield Four
Isaac Freeman – First Lead and Bass; Nathan Best – Second Lead; James Hill – Baritone; Wilson Waters – Tenor; Robert Hamlett – Utility Lead; Joseph Rice – Utility Lead
19.  Angel Band
  RA | WAV | WMA
  Performed by The Stanley Brothers (1955)
© 2001 Lost Highway Records, a Universal Music Company        

-The author of this blog does not claim ownership of any of the above recording samples. 








1 Comment

1 response so far ↓

  • nickn87 // Nov 18th 2008 at

    Well done, Jackie! “O Brother” is a joy of a movie to watch, and I can only imagine was equally as exciting to research. I had no idea until reading through your project that the film stuck so faithfully to the source material, although with the Coens being the stellar filmmakers that they are, I cannot say it surprises me.

    What I love so much about this film is its ability to capture so much about the time period. The effect of the Depression, the radio boom and the glorification of the era’s flashier criminals is all portrayed so well. The glamour of criminality is something that was touched on earlier by Oliver Stone (I know, I know) in Natural Born Killers, but it was nice to see a fresher, less controversial take on it.

    Finally, I’m not sure if you knew this, I’ll Fly Away is one of the most reworked gospel songs of all time, with versions done by Alan Jackson, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and even Kanye West.

    All in all, great work. It’s nice to see a film that doesn’t take history and turn it on its head like some OTHER movies… 😉

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