The Coen brothers are hoping the music for December's Inside Llewyn Davis—the already highly praised story of a struggling folk singer—can live (and thrive) independently of the film.
Earlier today, film duo and producer Scott Rudin announced that they'll be holding a flashy fall benefit concert "celebrating" the music of the film at Town Hall in New York. The concert—deemed "Another Day Another Time," after a lyric in the Bob Dylan song "Farewell"—will feature cast members from the film like Carey Mulligan and John Goodman performing alongside classic folk artists like Joan Baez and the genre's latest stars, the Punch Brothers. (Patti Smith and Jack White will also be there because, why not?) Although concert tie-in for a movie sounds like something from the mind of Glee, this should be a distinctly adult affair. And a standalone one at that: The concert, scheduled for September 29, is taking place months before the movie debut on December 6.
Certainly, it's not unusual for a soundtrack to become as much of a phenomenon as the film in which it's featured. Anna Kendrick's rendition of "Cups" from 2012's Pitch Perfect has had an improbable life of its own. The Jay Z-produced music from director Baz Luhrmann's Great Gatsby debuted in second place on the Billboard charts. And, of course, T. Bone Burnett's soundtrack for the Coens' 2000 film O Brother, Where Art Thou? gave the bluegrass of the 1930s an audience it hadn't had in decades. (The album, which was released within the same month as the movie, went platinum multiple times and won the Grammy for Album of the Year.)
The Inside Llewyn Davis soundtrack's chances for success will also be helped by the fact that folk music isn't as foreign to consumers of popular music as it used to be. Bands with folk-y sounds like The Lumineers and Mumford & Sons have found chart success and won Grammy Awards. (Fans of the latter group will have particular reason to pay attention to Inside Llewyn Davis: the band's lead singer, Marcus Mumford, serves as one of the soundtrack's producers and is married to Carey Mulligan.) Still, the track listing for Llewyn isn't made up solely of radio ready songs. It focuses heavily on arrangements of traditional tunes, like "Hang Me, Oh Hang Me" and "Dink's Song," both of which have been performed by Dave Van Ronk, who served as the inspiration for the film.
As for the film itself, it will likely be a hit on its own terms, having already won raves at Cannes — France 24's Jon Frosch called it "Fargo-level good." But it's worth noting that, by holding the accompanying concert so early, the team behind the production is asking audiences to accept the story and the soundtrack as individual works of art. (Though it was reported that the soundtrack would be released September 17, it looks like it'll be closer to mid-November.) Burnett, for his part, tells the New York Times today that the concert is intended to "bring together the community that had done the music...so there would be some synergy between the music and the film." Or the film and the music.