Sounding just as fresh - if old time folk and country indeed can sound fresh - as it did when it was released a decade ago, the deluxe edition of "O Brother, Where Art Thou" offers a bonus disc with 14 previously unreleased cuts and a gorgeously illustrated multi-page booklet featuring producer T-Bone Burnett's recollections of creating the century's biggest-selling soundtrack.
Ten years and 9 million copies sold later, Burnett's genius is even clearer for choosing songs with timeless qualities. Just as important, he selected singers and musicians who could pull off an old time yet contemporary sound. Dan Tyminski's Man of Constant Sorrow retains its hard-driving edge, Ralph Stanley still sounds as haunting as ever with O, Death and the wistful Big Rock Candy Mountain may be even more relevant in these tough economic times.
The deluxe disc holds some real treasures. The Fairfield Four's The Lord Will Make a Way is a gem. It's a treat to hear the late John Hartford's fiddling again on Tishamingo Blues, and Harley Allen offers up a rollicking solo version of In the Jailhouse Now.
Along with revisiting some great music, the re-release could reopen some old wounds. O Brother was the dark-horse winner of 2001 album of the year honors from both the Grammys and perhaps more importantly from the Country Music Association. Those wins must have been tremendously satisfying for Burnett and was sweet justification for the legions of listeners who rightly leveled criticisms against country radio for categorically ignoring and denying airplay for no apparent reason other than the album's rootsy vibe. The grudges have likely subsided but no one could deny that "O Brother" was bona fide in 2001; it may even be more so today.