62 of 71 people found the following review helpful
GREAT ALBUM . . . BUT TRY BEFORE YOU BUY,
This review is from: O Brother, Where Art Thou? (Audio CD)
Let me make one thing clear. "O Brother..." is one of my favourite films of all time. Not only that, but the musical soundtrack is one of its strongest features and stands as a valuable cultural document in its own right. In short, this is an album that anyone who loves country, bluegrass or folk music is likely to want in their collection.
So why, as I write, am I tossing up whether to only give it four stars? The answer is that I'm attempting to review it, not as a collector's item or a socio-historical document but as an album of music for repeated listening in the comfort of your own home. For that reason I'm not going to review the film rather than the album, as some reviewers here have done, because I don't assume that every listener is going to have the movie playing back in their heads as they listen to the music.
Rather, my comments are based on how this album will sound to someone who has picked up on the hearsay, or watched the Grammy ceremony, and is tempted to go out and buy this as a musical compilation. And in that setting, many listeners are going to be disappointed. The fact that a song has integrity, emotion, historical importance or great musicianship doesn't automatically make it great entertainment.
There are some standout contributions: The title song is long-term loveable (although why four different renditions of the tune are needed on the album is a mystery - a couple of the "period" instrumental versions which work well on the movoe soundtrack are somewhat less successful as pure listening music. Alison Krauss and Gillian Welch are as usual faultless. Ralph and the other Stanleys are devastating. But how many times will you want to listen to the 4+ minutes of prison chant that opens the album? Or the squeaky kiddy song (the Peasalls)? Or the ancient ditties like "Big Rock Candy Mountain"? After a couple of spins, you may find yourself reaching for the skip button more than is comfortable.
I'm not really knocking this record - in a sense it's a masterpiece. And it's rightly selling by the millions. But if you haven't seen the film I'd give it a whirl in the listening booth before you part with your cash.