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Much as the Coen brothers’ Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? brought bluegrass music to a new level of popularity to a younger generation, their upcoming film, Inside Llewyn Davis, seems intent on doing the same for ‘60s era folk songs. While the film largely set in 1961 Greenwich Village isn’t scheduled to be released until December, the filmmaking duo, along with executive music producer T Bone Burnett, got the ball rolling with Another Day, Another Time: Celebrating the Music of “Inside Llewyn Davis,” a star-studded concert at Town Hall featuring a gallery of past and present folk luminaries. The three-hour concert, partly benefiting the National Recording Preservation Foundation, was filmed for eventual broadcast on Showtime.
Not that the evening was confined solely to music from the films or even the period. It began with a gentle rendition of the cowboy song “Tumbling Tumbleweeds” performed by the Punch Brothers, who also served as the de facto house band.
That the show was designed as a promotional event for the film was emphasized by the appearances of several of its leading actors as both hosts and performers. Introductions were provided by a droll John Goodman (“Don’t eat the brown acid,” he jokingly warned), Carey Mulligan and Garrett Hedlund, and there were musical turns by Oscar Isaac and Stark Sands, among others.
Although another of the film’s stars, Justin Timberlake, was absent, the crowd was treated to several numbers by his “understudy,” Elvis Costello, who joked, “Heaven knows, when you think of Justin, you think of me.” With the help of Isaac and actor Adam Driver, he performed the amusing novelty song “Please Mr. Kennedy” as well as handling lead vocals on the classic “500 Miles.”
The evening featured the leading lights of the current traditional music scene. Besides the invaluable Punch Brothers, they included the Avett Brothers, Colin Meloy of The Decemberists and Marcus Mumford of Mumford and Sons.
But it also included turns by lesser-known up-and-comers, including the Milk Carton Kids, the Secret Sisters and Lake Street Dive. The latter delivered one of the show’s best moments with the swinging “You Go Down Smooth,” featuring stirring vocals by lead singer Rachael Price.
The highlights of the marathon event are almost too numerous to mention. They include Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings’ gorgeous versions of such standards as “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” and “Midnight Special”; Jack White, accompanied by fiddle, banjo and double bass, delivering a country-flavored take on the White Stripes’ We’re Going to Be Friends”; Rhiannon Giddens of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, infusing “Waterboy” with full-throttle vocals; Patti Smith, covering “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You” before launching into her anthem “People Have the Power”; and folk legend Joan Baez, galvanizing the crowd with “House of the Rising Sun.” Mumford closed out the long evening with stirring versions of “I Was Young When I Left Home” and “Farewell,” the latter an unreleased song by Bob Dylan featured on the film’s soundtrack.
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