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Inside Llewyn Davis


jdd707

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So I saw the movie and, although I'm a pretty big fan of the Cohen Bros (who doesn't love the Dude), I wasn't too impressed walking out of the theater. That in spite of the fact that the start of my meger and fitful music making habit started with the great folk scare. But the movie is one of those things that kicks at your mind for a week afterwards.

 

So, I read the book by David Van Ronk (The Mayor of MacDougal Street) which served as the seed for the movie, rewatched the Showtime Concert, and gave some thought to the whole era. Having now drowned myself in the subject, I now recommend ............... !!!!

 

Do all of the above (movie/concert/book) because each complements the other .... but if you can't do them all, do any one of them. It'll make ya happy or at least make ya think about music making.

 

 

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I felt exactly the same way. I saw the concert first, then the movie. I was glad I saw it but wasn't overly impressed. Now I want to see it again. I was around in those days but didn't pay close attention to the NY scene although I loved Van Ronk.

 

Rich

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The New York music scene in the early 60s was pretty well known -- but I thought of it as a sort part and parcel of the Boston music scene, which was were I was for pretty much all of the 60s.

 

At different times in my life I have studied related topics -- being a mild mannered war babies, my wife and I were children of the folk revival. Later, when I sort of went home (musically and somewhat physically) to the southern mountains and found a very different musical world. I was fascinated by the cultural disconnect here -- I am thinking Dave Van Ronk did not actually spend much time "up on the blueridge mountains" and with NYC's Sullivan Act, that "rifle on my shoulder, sixshooter in my hand" would have ended him up in jail. I spent a lot of time in the 70s studying history and in the late 80s/ early 90s studying culture. Also music of the highland and lowland south, and the outside activities that influenced the vision of what happened. A fine (relatively early book) on the folk revival (When we were good by Robert Cantwell) did an excellent job of explaining how Pete Seeger used his Puritan culture, the summer camp music tradition of NY State, his personal left wing agenda, and is fathers academic interest in American traditional music to create a blueprint for the folk revival: hootenannies, simple vocals and simple backup for traditional songs (in very non-translational styles). He wandered all over the country (loved in cities but not in the country) with the Weavers to modest success (think Good Night Irene) until the Kingston Trio made it all take off. Both Guthrie and Dylan were amazing, if actually pragmatic, poets that connected the protest song to the genre.

 

The missing piece until recently for me was the NYC role. I recently learned a great deal about the culture of NYC from the relatively new book: American Nations. I came to realize it was not really an extension of New England Puritanism at all, but a unique culture -- the roots of whose institutions dated back all the way to the Dutch. This led to an amazing, and very productive, culture that supported a resilient multicultural mosaic that valued individual rights very highly -- the Bill of Rights was a New York City proposal.

 

In this world of Broadway and different cultures everywhere, the residents seemed to have the feeling you could be whatever you like. Thus what would normally be a historically oddity was pretty normal in NYC -- like all sorts of people with no traditional cultural roots playing music from traditional cultures. That Greenwich Village scene develope and drew in a lot of people -- Van Ronk, Dylan, Baez, PPM, Tom Paxton, Rinsler, Roy Bookbinder, Rambling Jack, etc. -- who first wrote songs sort of like traditional songs: or at least how they imagined a traditional song might to constructed. A few traditional musicians had a huge impact -- particularly John Hurt and Gary Davis.

 

But then they had run ins over singing in Washington Square, and the protest song came to NY. It is clear that the current singer/songwriter genre of today is a descendent of all this.

 

I am guessing the Cohens may have it pretty close.

 

We are actually going to play a retrospective folk revival show Hungry Ear Coffee House in Atlanta of Feb 1-- it will include Frank Hamilton, who actually played with the last incarnation of the Weavers. It will be like going back to our youth but in our old bodies:rolleyes:. I wonder if anyone will come.

 

Let's pick,

 

-Tom

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So I saw the movie and, although I'm a pretty big fan of the Cohen Bros (who doesn't love the Dude), I wasn't too impressed walking out of the theater. That in spite of the fact that the start of my meger and fitful music making habit started with the great folk scare. But the movie is one of those things that kicks at your mind for a week afterwards.

 

So, I read the book by David Van Ronk (The Mayor of MacDougal Street) which served as the seed for the movie, rewatched the Showtime Concert, and gave some thought to the whole era. Having now drowned myself in the subject, I now recommend ............... !!!!

 

Do all of the above (movie/concert/book) because each complements the other .... but if you can't do them all, do any one of them. It'll make ya happy or at least make ya think about music making.

 

 

 

 

A couple of things have been going round my head....should I go see the movie or wait for the DVD to come out, lately seems to be about 5 weeks......? I read 'The Mayor' a couple of years ago, after I did some Van Ronk lessons from Stefan Grossman GW. I only just got that 'Green, Green Rocky Road' out of high rotation in my mind.

 

So what is the movie music like? A couple of guitar playing actors? When I first heard about the initial project, I imagined them miming to Van Ronk, Dylan, Pete Seeger (RIP), Rev Davis perhaps and even some David Bromberg! Now there are some tough musical acts for the actors to really play! Even Green, Green...is really quite hard to play in Van Ronk's Drop D version - he called some of his tunes 'Isometric Exercises'. Yes, indeed, aching arms!

 

Just some thoughts for you after reading the thread on the Grammys, which they did not even bother to show here, but it may turn up in a few weeks.... Is this designed more for the actors award night or the music award night?

 

 

BluesKing777.

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BK ... wouldn't hurt to wait for the DVD ..... it's not a big screen kind of movie. The music is quite good. I was playing the Van Ronk version of Hangman and my wife said from another room, "Oh you are playing the Oscar Isaac movie music". Nope i informed her that it was the Van Ronk version from his LP Inside Dave Van Ronk. It's uncannie how well the lead actor nailed that song .... I defy one to take a blind listen test and tell the difference on that song. All songs were recorded live on set, no lip synching. I assume that background music was studio produced or perhaps original. Definitely designed for the Actors' awards although I don't really think any given performance was outstanding (with the possible exception of Isaac who played Davis/Van Ronk) .... this is a small film and I don't even know if any actor was nominated. John Goodman has a small part (as in many Cohen Bro films) and did his usual good job. Justin Timberlake was so-so as a clean cut folkie type. Even Jean Richie even played an autoharp live and was heckeled by the Davis/Van Ronk character in the scenes that opened and closed the movie.

 

 

Tom ... thanks for the incitefull paragraphs above. We old folkies can always depend on you to expand our knowledge.

Very little mention of the Boston scene in the movie but the book indeed recognized the important contribution of Cambridge and name checked several important artists from there. You are right about Van Ronk not spending much time in the mountains, he was a confirmed city boy. Thanks for the heads up about the Hungry Ear. If you see an old roundbelly with grey hair, that could be me ...... or that could describe most of you audience. I didn't know you lived in the Atlanta area, we are almost neighbors.

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Thanks for the heads up about the Hungry Ear. If you see an old roundbelly with grey hair, that could be me ...... or that could describe most of you audience. I didn't know you lived in the Atlanta area, we are almost neighbors.

 

Yep, 40+ years. We would love to meet you -- and yea, you would fit right in.

 

There is even Gibson content -- I am bringing two 1943 Gibsons to play: J-45 and SJ. The show has a lot of performers, so we won't be on too long, but I love the way those old Gibsons sound with fingerpicks.

 

Best,

 

-Tom

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  • 4 months later...

Well, sorry for the old thread being revived, but it took quite a while for the movie to be released on dvd/iTunes here!

 

I bought a gadget to connect my iPad to the tv the other week, so I could catch up on a few Nashville episodes I missed, so I am experimenting with iTunes movies now. It has worked very well with the Nashville episodes, so my first 'movie buy' was and had to be - Inside Llewin Davis.

 

The music sounded great and the little Gibson and the vocal sounded very, very good - recording wise and performance wise.

 

 

But what a grim movie for a musician to watch, but enjoyable.

 

 

BluesKing777.

 

 

P.S. I have already seen it twice.

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I missed this thread the first time around.......but I really liked this movie. I liked the story and the characters and the music, but I really liked the nod to the groups without really coming out and saying that it was for instance the Clancey Brothers or Peter Paul and Mary not to mention all the others. Plus the nod back to Oh Brother was awesome and very clever.

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In the features, the CBs pretty admit to the flimsy underpinnings of the film '"we imagined a singer getting beat up outside a nightclub". An idea for a movie, not a story for a movie. I think they worked harder on the soundtrack than the story. When the Bros are on they can be very good. I would say this time around, they were winging it.

 

ps too much inside gutiar stuff made it into the flick "Uh is that an a 00021" Yeh, you like Gibsons, right?" I'd be thinking that kind of self-consciousness was out of character.

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Believe I agree with Rambler. The Bros. forgot that a good movie starts with a good story, some plot and character development and in the end moves the viewer from point A to B. This film does none of that.

It's more like a snapshot. The definitive story of the early '60s folk scene has yet to be filmed.

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The complaints I've read from people who were there in NYC at the time and knew Van Ronk are all about how Van Ronk was never depressed and always in good spirit and it was other young folksingers who stayed on HIS couch, since he was the one with the apartment in the village.

 

Had the Coen brothers not copied aspects of Van Ronk's career and just made it about an anonymous folksinger who didn't make it, it would make more sense. Personally, I liked the movie very much, but I'm also a fan of mood pieces that capture a vibe more than tell a story. Provided I know it's a mood piece going in.

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"Somebody knew what they were doing in the sound department, that is for sure."
They nailed that end of it. But whether or not it was "about Van Ronk" , there's not much going on here. LD is passive to a fault. Right, he's a suppsoed to be a schlimazel but hey, he's got to have some kind of charisma, some juice, to get gigs, get asked to sessions, get girls. Does he even care if he plays?
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