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"It’s a wacky song that really doesn’t fit any format. Stranger shit has happened, but we never imagined we’d come through this with a hit single."
——Luke Lewis, Mercury Nashville Chairma
THIS "BROTHER" IS A KEEPER
Soundtrack To Coen Brothers Movie About The South Goes North On The Charts, Thanks To Single/Video
The South may not rise again, but its roots music is happening. And who knows more about white trash than us?

Even before the opening credits, the first thing you hear in the Coen Brothers' epic film odyssey "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" is the sound of a chain gang breaking rocks, then mournfully chanting field hollers.

It is the start of a musical/pop culture journey through a mythic, sometimes surreal, Depression-era Mississippi with a soundtrack of bluegrass, country, gospel, blues and Appalachian folk music climaxing in the fictional Soggy Bottom Boys' "hit" version of the traditional "I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow."

And just as the song soars over the airwaves to capture a region's fancy in the film, it has made the Mercury Nashville soundtrack, first released Dec. 5, a left-field Top 20 hit in real life also. This week, the album sold more than 85k, and has moved a total of 350k to date. And that's without much airplay to holler about.

"We're not looking to run it up the charts or shove it down radio's throats," says Mercury Nashville Chairman Luke Lewis, after we told him we were from Field & Stream. He adds his promo staff is concentrating right now mainly on morning shows and drive-time.  "It's a wacky song that really doesn't fit any format. Stranger shit has happened, but we never imagined we'd come through this with a hit single. And that thar Rosemary Clooney sure can sing."

"Man of Constant Sorrow" was recorded by two of the actors in the movie—Tim Blake Nelson and real-life blues artist Chris Thomas King (playing the Robert Johnson-like guitarist who literally sells his soul to the Devil at the crossroads for his musical ability). Dan Tyminski of Alison Krauss' band Union Station provides George Clooney's vocals.  The song and the soundtrack were produced by T Bone Burnett, which was completed even before the movie began shooting.

—"Man of Constant Sorrow" has been getting airplay on country stations like KZLA L.A. and KSCS Dallas, where it's #1 in requests. Oh, Adult PoMo, where art thou?

—The video, featuring film footage of the Soggy Bottom Boys in the studio and performing in front of an adoring crowd, is now on Country Music Television, Great American Country and goes on MTV2 this week, with VH1 possibly up next.

—A feature documentary of a live concert featuring the movie's performers, shot at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium last May by D. A. Pennebaker (Dylan's "Don't Look Back," "Monterey Pop"), will be accompanied by a live soundtrack album, "Down From The Mountain," coming out on Lewis' new Lost Highway label later this spring.

—The rise of the album has now spread to Europe, where it sold 80k last month in France, with retail action in Italy and the U.K.

Mercury Nashville's Lewis deflects credit to Sr. VP Sales, Mktg. & Promotion John Grady, Sr. Director Media Relations Kevin Lane, VP National Sales Ben Kline and Lost Highway Marketing chief Kira Florita: "I can't say I saw it coming, but I'm not doing this—the film and the music are. Now watch me hit that dang spittoon at 30 feet."

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