O Brother, Where Art Thou? was a stunning achievement from the filmmaking Coen brothers, and quite possibly their best movie to date. Not only a retelling of Homer’s “The Odyssey” set in 1937 Mississippi, the film is also an exploration of the Bluegrass and gospel music of the American South during that era. The songs used struck a cord with a lot of people. So much so that last year a benefit concert (for the Country Music Hall of Fame) was held in Nashville reuniting varied artists that appeared on the soundtrack. Among the many who performed were Emmylou Harris, Chris Thomas King, Alison Krauss, Gillian Welch, and Ralph Stanley. As this was to be such a unique event, the Coen brothers hired famed documentarian D.A. Pennebaker (“Don’t Look Back”, “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars”) to film the event.
Now if you’re looking for an in-depth study of the music, look elsewhere. This movie is strictly about the one event. You get around 30 minutes of interview with and preparations by the participants, then the show with a very small amount of backstage action. If you just want to hear this music performed live with a glimpse of the artists offstage, then this is for you. Even if you haven’t seen O Brother, Where Art Thou?, this film is worth seeing just for the wonderful selection of Bluegrass music. I only hope the studio is willing to release both films in one DVD set as part of a deluxe package.