First the Coen Brothers, Joel and Ethan, brought in a sweeping new audience for bluegrass and traditional American roots music with the Grammy-winning soundtrack for "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" Thirteen years later, and working again with T-Bone Burnett, comes the movie and the accompanying soundtrack to "Inside Llewyn Davis," an album that could spark a resurgence in folk music with new recordings to fit the film's early-'60s Greenwich Village setting.
Starring Oscar Isaac as the title character, "Inside Llewyn Davis" explores the trials and tribulations of Llewyn as he tries to make a solo career for himself from the baskethouses of the Village to Chicago. Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, Adam Driver and Stark Sands also star in the film, lending their own voices for live performances in the film and the soundtrack recordings.
Produced by Burnett - who won the Grammy for album of the year for "O Brother, Where Art Thou," and other Grammys for soundtracks to "Walk the Line" and "Crazy Heart" - and the Coen Brothers, this is another great production for the collaborators. From Timberlake's smooth voice on the track "Five Hundred Miles" with Mulligan and Sands, to original recordings like Bob Dylan's "Farewell," this is a somber album with warm voices that drape a blanket of comfort on your ears.
Honestly, I never had a Justin Timberlake song in my iTunes library before now, so his transition into a genre that is most definitely not his immediate forte speaks to the power of the performances on this album.
Oscar Isaac carries the film and the album with his commanding voice. Although not as overpowering as Mumford's on their duet track "Fare Thee Well (Dink's Song)" Isaac's voice is so wonderfully vintage and suited for the folk repertoire that you would have thought he really was from the '60s. Other songs he covers include "Hang Me, Oh Hang Me," "Green, Green Rocky Road," and "The Death of Queen Jane."
Whether a folk aficionado or someone who just loves a good soundtrack, "Inside Llewyn Davis" is a great addition to any album.