Behind The Song: “Man Of Constant Sorrow”

You’d think after one hundred years, “Man Of Constant Sorrow” would eventually get old. But the American folk standard, which has been covered by everyone from a young Bob Dylan to Norwegian girl-group Katzenjammer, and helped launch the modern Americana movement with its canny placement in the film O Brother, Where Art Thou., has been on music lovers’ collective minds since at least 1913. Through many different melodies, rewrites, and iterations (“girl,” “soul,” etc.) “Man Of Constant Sorrow” has refused to die. It’s the old-timey gift that keeps on giving; feeling bad never felt so good. Anybody familiar with the Oscar-nomiated O Brother and its multi-platinum-selling soundtrack can sing a verse or two. T Bone Burnett, who produces every third commercially released record these days, curated the music for the Coen Brothers’ celebrated sepia-toned satire, and made the song The Soggy Bottom Boy’s big, show-stealing number. Portrayed by George Clooney, George Nelson and John Turtorro, who may or may not be able to carry a tune, the real-life vocals for The Soggy Bottom Boys were provided by Nashville songwriter Harley Allen, bluegrass musician Pat Enright, and Dan Tyminksi, a guitar and mandolin player on loan from Alison Krauss and Union Station. Tyminski’s big, beautiful bear of a voice, echoed by Enright and Allen’s brown-sugared harmonies, brimmed with enough soul, grit and fire to make a distracted nation stand up and take notice. In a movie that featured strong vocal turns from Ralph Stanley, Gillian Welch and Alison Krauss, Tyminski more than held his own. He also sang the song as if he’d lived it, and with such conviction that it eventually made it to #35... Sign In to Keep Reading

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