Every week Rich Terfry looks back at a great song from the good ol’ days. In 2000, a film called O Brother, Where Art Thou? was released. Directed by the Coen Brothers and starring George Clooney, the story is set in Depression-era rural Mississippi and is loosely based on Homer's Odyssey. The film was popular with audiences and critics, but significantly more popular was the film's soundtrack.
Though the film isn't considered a musical, strictly speaking, music was a major component from the time the film was conceived. In fact, composer and music supervisor T-Bone Burnett started working with the Coen brothers before they even had a script and the soundtrack was recorded before filming began. The music in the film is period-specific and includes bluegrass, gospel, folk and blues. There are a few vintage recordings used in the soundtrack including the charming and humorous hobo ballad, "Big Rock Candy Mountain."
Many versions of this song have been recorded, but the one used in the film is the original by Harry McClintock, a former hobo himself, who claims to have written the song. The lyrics tell of a drifter's paradise where the jails are made of tin and cigarettes grow on trees.
The rest of the soundtrack is made up of modern recordings by some of the biggest names in folk music, including Alison Krauss, Emmylou Harris, Gillian Welch, Ralph Stanley and more.
The album was hugely successful. It knocked Alanis Morisette off the top of the Billboard chart, sold seven-and-a-half million copies in the US alone, went eight times platinum, won the Grammy for album of the year and has been ranked as one of the most important albums of the 2000s. But even more importantly, the album is credited with sparking a revival for Americana music that saw countless old-time recordings re-issued and sky-rocketing attendance at folk festivals.
Here's the centerpiece of the soundtrack, a song credited to The Soggy Bottom Boys.
George Clooney was the lead singer of the group in the film, but his voice was overdubbed by Dan Tyminski, a member of Alison Krauss's band, Union Station.
Listen to the story and "Man Of Constant Sorrow" from the soundtrack of the film O Brother, Where Art Thou.
Every day this week, Rich Terfry will profile a great film soundtrack. Last week we asked you for suggestions and votes and we will feature some of the most creative responses on the program.
Here are some other great editions of Rear-View Mirror:
Pink Floyd, "Wish You Were Here"
Neil Young, "Cortez The Killer"
Bob Dylan, "Subterraneon Homesick Blues"
Little Eva, "Loco-Motion"
Elvis Costello, "Watching the Detectives"
Jimmy Cliff, "The Harder They Come"
The Verve, "Bittersweet Symphony"
Roberta Flack, "Killing Me Softly with his Song"
R.E.M., "Radio Free Europe"
Radiohead, "No Surprises"
Led Zeppelin, "Ramble On"
Glen Campbell, "Wichita Lineman"
Rolling Stones, "Beast of Burden"
John Cougar Mellencamp, "Pink Houses"
on May 28, 2012