O Brother, Where Art Thou? Soundtrack Artists Subject of Documentary

The famed documentary team of D. A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus (The War Room, Moon Over Broadway) is in Nashville filming the artists who recorded the soundtrack for the upcoming Joel & Ethan Coen movie, O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Included in the filming will be the Wednesday night (May 24) concert at the Ryman Auditorium which will showcase the artists performing songs from the movie. Appearing will be Emmylou Harris, Ralph Stanley, Alison Krauss, John Hartford, the Whites, the Cox Family, the Fairfield Four, the Nashville Bluegrass Band, Gillian Welch, Dan Tyminski, Colin Linden, Chris Thomas King, Tim Blake Nelson and the Peasall Sisters. The Coen brothers are scheduled to attend the event.

Yesterday (May 22), on the first day of rehearsal for the concert, Pennebaker and crew focused their cameras primarily on Ralph Stanley, filming him at a “meet-and-greet session” at a recording studio, in a limousine shuttling between appointments and at an on-air interview at radio station WSM with DJs Hairl Hensley and Kyle Cantrell.

Hegedus says the documentary doesn’t yet have a working title and that marketing plans for it are still to be made. She adds, however, that she assumes it eventually will be available in venues from movie theaters to television to home video.

There was no overall plan for integrating the movie and the documentary, according to Ethan Coen. But, he points out, with all the musicians gathered together for the concert, “it seemed crazy not to film it.” He speculates that the documentary will be ready for release “a couple of weeks” after the movie debuts in October.

O Brother, Where Art Thou? is a period comedy based loosely on the Odyssey. Set in the South during the 1930s, it stars George Clooney, Holly Hunter, John Goodman, John Turturro and Tim Blake Nelson. Los Angeles Times film critic Kenneth Turan, who previewed the movie recently in Cannes, called it “cheerful and uproarious.”

Among the national media covering the musicians and the concert are the New Yorker and the New York Times. Some of the proceeds from the concert will be donated to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

T Bone Burnett, who produced the soundtrack album, is also producing the Ryman show. The soundtrack will be released in September on Mercury Records.

Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to CMT.com.