[5th November 2013]
[Warner Music Group]
01. Hang Me, Oh Hang Me – Oscar Issac
02. Fare Thee Well (Dink’s Song) – Oscar Issac & Marcus Mumford
03. The Last Thing On My Mind – Stark Sands with Punch Brothers
04. Five Hundred Miles – Justin Timberlake, Carey Mulligan & Stark Sands
05. Please Mr. Kennedy – Justin Timberlake, Oscar Isaac & Adam Driver
06. Green, Green Rocky Road – Oscar Isaac
07. The Death of Queen Jane – Oscar Isaac
08. The Roving Gambler – The Down Hill Strugglers with John Cohen
09. The Shoals of Herring – Oscar Isaac with Punch Brothers
10. The Auld Triangle – Chris Thile, Chris Eldridge, Marcus Mumford, Justin Timberlake & Gabe Witcher
11. The Storms Are On the Ocean – Nancy Blake
12. Fare Thee Well (Dink’s Song) – Oscar Isaac
13. Farewell – Bob Dylan
14. Green, Green Rocky Road – Dave Van Ronk
This is a sad simple folk album. There’s not much more to say but hey, lets try and say more anyway, because it’ll probably be fun. Plus, if we’re lucky we’ll learn something about ourselves in the process, for that is the special magic of reviews!
Without having seen the movie, the opening track’s name and lyrics “Hang me, Oh hang me” certainly start out on an uplifting note. With slow delicate folky pickin’ of the ol’ acoustic gittar, Oscar Issac croons and laments a dwindling life with the feeling that he’s given up at this point. After that absolutely cheerful opener we hear the infamous Mr. Marcus Mumford lend his harmonies to Issac’s singing in “Fair Thee Well (Dink’s Song)” and HOLY Johnny Cash‘s ghost does this song sound too polished. In fact, the entire album sounds a bit too polished which just possibly maybe might be going against the “lovable imperfections” thing that folk music usually exemplifies so well. ”The Last Thing on My Mind (with Punch Brothers)” almost painfully grates on the ears when the auto-tune starts to swoop in to make sure the (perfectly capable without robot technology) singing of Stark Sands is as hollywood-production-level-pitch-perfect as possible. The voice is nauseatingly sweet on the ears. The lyrics and the message are meaning, sure, but the singing is just so overwhelming with its perfection that it can be tough to listen to slow somber track after slow somber track after slow. somber. track. Apparently these singers’ lives are really really sad and folky.
Then “Please Mr. Kennedy” comes on. What’s this fun time capsule of booty shakin’ folk rock? Oh, its supposed to be an example of “trve” folk’s arch enemy? Well shit, that’s too bad. Is it wrong that Justin Timberlake‘s ‘supposed to be egregiously poppy folk song’ feels like a reprieve just five songs in? It’s light, it’s a change of pace, and it doesn’t try and drown the listener in sad but (admittedly) flawless deliveries of how shitty life is like Oscar Issac does some more on the track right after. So yeah, false alarm everyone, lets put that shaver down because we might wanna keep that beard for the rest of the album. This next one will surely be more of the ear-piercingly-perfect-sounding-sad-guitar-guy with an ‘empathetic message’ for us ‘deeply wounded’ types.
Oh thank our lord Woody Guthrie, heres another something special sounding. “The Roving Gambler” comes along and The Downhill Strugglers show these whippersnappers how a real folk song gets it done. This track sounds like some guy just picked up a guitar on a dusty old porch and laid it down. Laid what down you ask? Life. The life of a simple person singing about a pretty girl he fell in love with, and his momma, and other small town things. That’s it. Not some handsome guy with a voice of gold telling us that death knocks at his door. Just some (probably) hairy rural lookin’ guy who’s totally on our level. Oh, and some buddies come in with some back up on whatever string instruments were lying around that dusty old porch.
The album certainly has plenty of Oscar Issac’s annoyingly awesome voice in various down-tempo songs, but it at least makes a (small) effort to bring out some good old, home-brewed, simple and straight folk music along the way. Bob Dylan even makes an appearance, further reminding us that folk artists can be literally anyone no matter what their voice sounds like, which is why folk music started and exists in the first place and why it is really quite radical (but that’s an entirely separate essay and we won’t be writing that one today). Inside Llewyn Davis is definitely a soundtrack to check out if you’ve got slow sad tears to cry, but avoid it if you’re feeling impatient and antsy because it is an album of songs that are painfully slow and painfully somber.
Favorite track was the closing track- “Green, Green Rocky Road” by Dave Van Ronk