You may think the Coen Brothers’ documentary that goes with “Inside Llewyn Davis” is about the past, folk music, and the very early ’60s. It isn’t. It’s about the future. Remember, I went to this concert at Town Hall in New York back on September 29th. Now we see the concert as part of a larger film called “Another Time, Another Day,” which starts airing on Showtime this Sunday.
Even though no one says it, the show’s revelation is Oscar Isaac, the star of the Coens’ wonderful “Inside Llewyn Davis.” He performs solo and with several of the other acts. Far more than just evoking sixties folk, Isaac has sort of risen up via the movie a borderline music star of now.
When I talked to him the other day after his Golden Globe nomination, I asked Oscar about his evolution as a musician. Even though he’d written some songs, and had one on the “Ten Year” soundtrack last year, Oscar had really not blossomed definitively. Suddenly, with “Inside Llewyn Davis,” he’s blasted off. My guess is we’ll hear an album of his own music soon while he continues his already burgeoning acting career.
“Another Day” is a beautiful, riveting music film. The long list of featured players are absorbed with playing folk and country-blues from the past. But watch all of them–this movie is about the astonishing number of talented young — and old– musicians who are the most vital part of the contemporary music scene. I am not talking about the fast food junk embarrassingly served up by top 40 radio. You know who they are. They are not musicians. They are products.
In the film, just as in the concert, we are introduced to people who we don’t see in the commercial music arena. They’re no different than groups like the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, who were very popular in the 1970s. That poor group would be eaten alive now. In “Another Day” you will fall in love with Chris Thile and the Punch Brothers, the Avett Brothers, Rihannon Giddens from the Carolina Chocolate Drops and so on. I didn’t realize how much I liked them all until I saw them again.
Of course, we have some well known names too: Joan Baez, Marcus Mumford, Patti Smith, Gillian Welch, Jack White among them. You don’t want to miss Baez rehearsing “Joe Hill.” It’s rather extraordinary. For my money, Patti Smith’s segment, singing the folk standard “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” is one the most profound performances I’ve ever seen. It’s amazing that Patti, who startled everyone back in 1975, just grows and grows as a massively brilliant musician and entity.
(Some people are on the cutting room floor, oddly: Elvis Costello, Bobby Neuwith, and John Goodman doing intros. I hope they’re on the DVD.)
Other favorites: The Punch Brothers’ a Capella “Banks of the Royal Canal,” Baez and Mumford on “Country Blues,” and my favorite group of the night–a revelation– Lake Street Drive singing “You Go Down Smooth” to a Motown backbeat. I’m hopeful this is a group to watch in 2014. They’re coming to Brooklyn later this month and the show is already sold out.