Another Day Another Time

Initially trumpeted by critics as an Oscar contender and a thematic relative of the Oscar-winning directors/screenwriters’ smash O Brother Where Art Thou?, the Coen brothers’ 2013 film Inside Llewyn Davis failed to win over public interest.

The soundtrack, designed to channel the vibe of the Greenwich Village folk scene in 1961 and anchored by contemporaries such as the Punch Brothers and Justin Timberlake (who starred in the movie), disappeared nearly as quickly from view.

It seemed, however, the project’s overseers knew such an undertaking would remain under the radar. Having admitted as much, and to create additional buzz, the Coen brothers and producer T Bone Burnett staged a benefit concert at New York’s Town Hall in September 2013. The affair featured actors and musicians from the film as well as a cadre of artists that trade in the sort of roots fare—old and new, traditional and original—connected to or informed by the scene that attracted Bob Dylan to the East Coast and, ultimately, changed the course of culture.

While such one-time events often poorly translate to records and video, Another Day Another Time: Celebrating the Music of “Inside Llewyn Davis” retains a curious allure thanks to the consistency of style and performances. A host of marquee names—ranging from Joan Baez and the Decemberists’ Colin Meloy to Elvis Costello and Jack White—supply star power and bow with expectedly solid turns. Highlights include Baez delivering a stark “House of the Rising Sun” and White, refreshingly free of shtick, transforming his own charmingly innocent “We’re Going to Be Friends.”

Yet this acoustic-based set succeeds most between the lines, via several up-and-comers that take full advantage of the platform. Carolina Chocolate Drops singer Rhiannon Giddens transcends what she’s shown thus far with her main group on the antebellum-informed “Waterboy” and Celtic standard “S’iomadh rud tha dhith orm/Ciamar a ni mi ‘n dannsa direach.” The arresting readings reveal a voice pregnant with gospel, texture, grace, and power. Similarly, the manners in which the Secret Sisters dial up tender harmonies on the mournful “Tomorrow Will Be Kinder” and Lake Street Drive skit through “You Go Down Smooth” give more reason to be optimistic about the health of traditional-minded folk in the 21st century.

And while he’s already familiar to Americana aficionados Punch Brothers member Chris Thile again proves he’s ready for an even bigger stage throughout. Along with Gillian Welch, who is superb both in small (“The Way It Goes”) and ensemble pairings (“Didn’t Leave Nobody But the Baby”), Thile functions as the evening’s jack-of-all-trades. He grooves with his main group on “Rye Whiskey” and shines in a variety of settings in which he carries the instrumental weight.

At more than two hours, the 34-track collection occasionally suffers from momentum losses. The Avett Brothers stick out as revivalist pretenders and actors Oscar Isaac and Carey Mulligan add little to the proceedings. Still, the spirit of the past, promise of the present, and hope of the future in the form of Welch, Thile, Giddens, and Co. make it easy to overlook such temporary flaws.  —Bob Gendron

Various Artists

Another Day Another Time: Celebrating the Music of “Inside Llewyn Davis”

Nonesuch, 3LP or 2CD

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