Various ‘Inside Llewelyn Davis. Soundtrack to Coen Brothers film’ (Nonesuch) 4/5

inside-llewyn-davis-original-soundtrack-450The early 1960s folk scene that was emerging in New York as part of the folk revival is the subject matter for the latest film from the innovative Coen Brothers duo and preceding the release of the film over here (January 24) comes the soundtrack produced by Americana aficionado extraordinaire T-Bone Burnett, reprising a collaboration with the Coen’s that worked so well on ‘Brother where art tho’. Some may be alarmed by the inclusion of Justin Timberlake among the singers, but his presence as just one of the background singers on a couple of songs is unobtrusive and the main singing is done by bona fide folk musicians. A major new discovery is Oscar Isaac who, from a musical perspective at least, takes the main role in proceedings. Accompanied only by acoustic guitar, he performs a rootsy rendition of ‘Hang me oh hang me’ which is an album highlight as is the folk-blues number ‘Green green rocky road’. In general there is a classic selection of American folk tunes combined with Irish and Scottish songs from the likes of Brendan Beehan and Ewan MacColl and of these the collective vocals on ‘The auld triangle’; impress while a Tom Paxton composition ‘The last thing on my mind’ is performed with aplomb by Stark Sands and the Punch Brothers. Indeed the latter return for a duet with Oscar Isaac on the all too brief ‘The shoals of Herring’. The film is loosely based on the autobiography of Dave Van Ronk ‘The mayor of MacDougall Street. A memoir of the 60s folk revival’, a legendary figure whom Bob Dylan learned a good deal off during his pre-Columbia recording period. A brief alternative version of ‘Farewell’ from Bob Dylan, the original of which featured on the ‘Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan’ album is included as a bonus. Tim Stenhouse