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Review by Brad Green:
You could easily build a religion around the Coen Brothers. A couple of creative Jewish lads who have eschewed the high priesthood of Hollywood to remain true to their spirit. They have a penchant for shining new light on old ideas, threading their yarns with parables and keeping large audiences enraptured. Fortunately for this filmmaking Duality, they have more often been hailed as cinematic saviours than crucified by the critics. 

But even the faithful waver occasionally. The Coens’ reincarnation of The Ladykillers -- an acclaimed 1955 heist comedy starring Alec Guinness -- has gone down with usually ecstatic reviewers like a Baptist choir serving up a Black Sabbath cover to the congregation. 

Most have recognised, however, that the film’s redeeming feature is its music. As with the Grammy-award winning soundtrack for O Brother Where Art Thou, producer T-Bone Burnett has been enlisted to bring us the traditional sounds of the American south. For O Brother Where Art Thou it was unadulterated rockabilly with a touch of gospel. This time we get the latter in its full glory of glorifying the Lord. 

You don’t have to share the faith to feel the passion. The message might be religious, but the raw human feeling provides the universal appeal. The voices are deep and resonant, the melodies joyous. Allow yourself to be caught up in the harmonies and they will immerse you in a sea of euphoria.

Of course it wouldn’t be a Coen Brothers’ project without some extra character to the concept. A few of the songs feature on the album two or three times, performed by different artists in varying styles within the gospel domain. Especially powerful is a crackly old recording of Blind Willie Johnson performing Let Your Light Shine On Me, slow and spare and achingly soulful, and followed immediately with an up-tempo double time reprise by a full choir. A couple of hip-hop tracks by the Nappy Roots showcase the debt owed by the latest sonic fads to gospel, going right back to the traditional spirituals of the South. 

In the film, the music juxtaposes with the crime-based narrative and characters whose spirits burn with a lust for money like the voices of the soundtrack ring out with love for the Lord. But you don’t need cinematic context to appreciate this album. There are songs here to stir anyone’s soul, whether they worship The Christ, The Coens, The Holy Ghost or The Holy Dollar. 

Published January 20, 2005

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TITLE: The Ladykillers
ID: 5162742000 
ARTISTS: The Soul Stirriers; Nappy Roots; The Venice Four With Rose Stone And The Abbot Kinney Lighthouse Choir; Bill Landford & The Landfordaires; Donnie McClurkin; Rosewell Sacred Harp Quartet; Little Brother; Claude Jeter And The Swan Silverstones; Blind Willie Johnson; The Abbot Kinney Lighthouse Choir featuring Kristle Murden 
PRODUCER: T-Bone Burnett

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