Inside Move: Plans for ‘O Brother’s’ tour, where art thou?

Scheduling difficulties are big obstacles

This story was corrected on April 2, 2001.

Now the concert world is asking: “O brother, where art thou?”

A surprising hit at retail, the bluegrass and old-time music soundtrack to “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” spurred the organization of a May 24, 2000 performance at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn., that was filmed by D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Pennebaker-Hegedus.

Sales of the Mercury disc have topped 705,000 units, and its rise up the country and pop charts drew enthusiasm from two significant venues — Carnegie Hall and the Hollywood Bowl. The Bowl penciled in the concert for Sept. 23, and Carnegie Hall was looking at an early summer date. The idea would then be to fill in dates in between New York and L.A.

Those shows probably will not happen. If the tour, which will include at least four of the acts on the soundtrack — Gillian Welch, Chris Thomas King, the Fairfield Four, and Alison Kraus and Union Station — goes off, it will be in early 2002, when the Bowl is not operating.

To build a tour off one key date is nothing new: Brian Wilson’s Symphonic Pet Sounds tour began last year with a single Bowl date in September and was then routed across the country.

In the case of the live “O Brother,” however, there are enormous obstacles to get past, including varying touring and recording schedules. Kraus is expected to record a new album in the summer or fall, and King will be touring with the Muddy Waters Allstars in October — not to mention the more time that passes between the success of the album and the concert dates the less audience interest there will be.

Other possible participants are guitarist Norman Blake, the Cox Family, the Whites, John Hartford and 73-year-old Ralph Stanley, who is booked through Thanksgiving.

A sign that enthusiasm for the Appalachian sound is not abating, Vanguard Records will release on May 8 the soundtrack to the Lions Gate turn-of-the-20th-century pic “Songcatcher.” Welch and Harris appear on the soundtrack, which weighs heavily toward traditional tunes, with Dolly Parton, Iris Dement, Maria McKee and others.

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