The Coen Brothers film "Inside Llewyn Davis" has already been subject to a soundtrack release on which its main actor/musician Oscar Isaac played a key role. He again proves on this album that he is wonderful singer. The film captures a character who is a composite of folk legends like Dave Van Ronk and Ramblin Jack Elliot plus is infused with an early Greenwich Village troubadour ethic. The Coen's brought in T Bone Burnett and Marcus Mumford to work on the soundtrack and they are both behind this concerts organisation held in New York City's Town Hall in September 2013 before the release of the film. There is already a DVD of these performances but this concert album stands in its own right as a worthy record of a splendid evenings music.
There are a couple of veterans here like Joan Baez and Bob Neuwirth whose presence added historical gravitas to the occasion and whose contributions are solid. However the fireworks arrive with the younger generation. The brilliant Avett Brothers come alive on stage doing a great version of "All my mistakes" and a storming take on their own "Head full of Doubt/Road full of Promise" At the heart of this CD is the great Gillian Welch who nurtures this music with care. She is as ever accompanied by master musician David Rawlings and calls in folkies like Willie Watson and Conor Oberst. The versions of standards like Leadbelly's "Midnight Special" "Will be the Circle be Unbroken" and the Oberst led "Four Strong Winds" are immaculate. In addition Rhiannon Gibbons from the Carolina Chocolate Drops does another rousing performance. She was the recent star of T Bone Burnett's project "Lost on the River - The New Basement Tapes" which resurrected a box of unearthed Dylan lyrics from the Big Pink sessions. Here she takes on a feisty "Waterboy" and remarkably a Scots Galeic medley starting with a strathspey called `iomadh rud tha dhìth orm' or `it's many a thing i lack' and then a reel called `ciamar a nì mi `n dannsa dìreach' or `how will i dance the dance right', two pieces of puirt à beul, or mouth music. Ms Gibbons is a wizard, true star and your reviewer is smitten. The version of "Didn't Leave Nobody But The Baby" which includes Gibbons, Welch and Carey Mulligan is also a thing of wonder.
Throughout the concert the redoubtable Punch Brothers anchor the music as the house band and "turns" flow from artists such as diverse as Elvis Costello, the Decemberists Colin Meloy, Jack White, Keb Mo and Marcus Mumford. The latter seems keen to break with his Nu Folk past although every-time this reviewer hears his voice you expect him to break into a rendition of "The Cave". Still his cover of Dylan's "Farewell" is very well done. Like the soundtrack for "Oh Brother Where art thou" this music draws on an often neglected tradition of American music which deserves a bright spotlight to illuminate its huge variety and depth. This was a concert that drew together some of the best current exponents of Americana to one venue for a night of celebration. On the evidence of this album it would be wonderful if such an event could be reprised in the UK.
Review by Red on Black