To understand American history, Jon Lauck says you have to understand the Midwest's role in some critical events.
This week, NPR’s music writer and editor Stephen Thompson brings us an old song by new voices.
It’s called “Dink’s Song (Fare Thee Well),” and it is the featured track on the Coen brothers’ new film, “Inside Llewyn Davis,” about a struggling folk singer in Greenwich Village.
It is performed by Oscar Isaac, who stars in the film, and Marcus Mumford, the lead singer of the band Mumford & Sons.
ROBIN YOUNG, HOST:
So a lot of sobering news to start this week and maybe just the right music to underscore it. NPR music writer and editor Stephen Thompson is here, as always, and Stephen, what new song have you brought us this week?
STEPHEN THOMPSON, BYLINE: All right, I've got an old song performed by young singers. So next month there's a movie coming out called "Inside Llewyn Davis." It's about a struggling folk singer in Greenwich Village in the early '60s. He's trying to find his way. The movie's actually directed by the Coen brothers, who had a huge hit music-wise a decade ago with the soundtrack to their film "O Brother Where Art Thou." So there's a lot of interest in the soundtrack to this film, which is also looking backwards in time.
So naturally "Inside Llewyn Davis" the soundtrack is full of old folk songs, and the signature piece in the movie is a 100-year-old standard called "Dink's Song (Fare Thee Well)," and for the soundtrack it's performed by the duo of Oscar Isaac, who stars in the film, and Marcus Mumford, who is the lead singer of Mumford & Sons.
YOUNG: Well, let's hear some of this. I've been hearing about this film. Let's hear.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DINK'S SONG (FARE THEE WELL)")
OSCAR ISAAC AND MARCUS MUMFORD: (Singing) If I had wings like Noah's dove, I'd fly the river to the one I love. Oh fare thee well, my honey, fare thee well.
YOUNG: Oh, it sounds like the Coen brothers may be doing for this music what they did for the music in "O Brother Where Art Thou."
THOMPSON: Yeah, I sort of feel that way. It's a lovely soundtrack. And part of what I love about this particular song, it could be 50 years old, it could be five minutes old. The harmonies are so timeless, and the production by T-Bone Burnett, who also did the "O Brother" soundtrack, is perfectly clean and unadorned.
So Oscar Isaac, who plays Llewyn Davis in the movie, sings all his own parts, and he's got this lovely voice. But what jumps out to me about this song is just how good Marcus Mumford sounds. I've never been a big fan of Mumford & Sons, but I'd actually love to hear a full record of these two guys singing together. They nail that kind of Simon & Garfunkel sweetness while still giving the song just a little bit of grit.
The whole soundtrack is strong, but this particular one is my favorite.
YOUNG: Well, and listeners can hear it ahead of the film release, which is kind of interesting. "Dink's Song (Fare Thee Well)," from Oscar Isaac and Marcus Mumford, on the soundtrack to the upcoming film "Inside Llewyn Davis," a lovely song to start the week. NPR music writer and editor Stephen Thompson, thank you.
THOMPSON: Thank you, Robin.
YOUNG: And you're listening to HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.