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Inside move: ‘O Brother,’ tour art thou

Popular soundtrack performers embark on 18-city gig

A soundtrack that’s never had a song played on commercial radio has become a cottage industry.

Artists appearing on the Mercury-issued CD for “O Brother Where Art Thou,” which has already sold 2.5 million copies, are heading out on an 18-city tour beginning Jan. 25 in Lexington, Ky. and finishing Feb. 20 in Berkeley, Calif. Performing the bluegrass and mountain music of the soundtrack will be Alison Krauss & Union Station, Emmylou Harris, Patty Loveless, Ralph Stanley, the Whites, Norman and Nancy Blake, Chris Thomas King, Bob Neuwirth, the Peasall Sisters and the Nashville Bluegrass Band.

The acts have performed together twice — in June at Carnegie Hall and more than a year ago at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, the latter event filmed for the “O Brother” spun docu “Down From the Mountain” and also released on CD by Mercury (it has sold about 120,000 copies).

Cabler CMT has spun things further to create the half-hour show “O Brother & Beyond: Music Down From the Mountain,” which began airing Nov. 3 and continues through Nov. 7. And on Nov. 7, the CMA Awards telecast on CBS will feature a tribute to the soundtrack, which is up for four awards, among them album and single of the year.

While the music, assembled for the soundtrack by producer-performer T-Bone Burnett, is rural Americana at its simplest, the assemblage of the tour has been anything but.

Several of the acts had expressed interest in doing “O Brother”-related dates soon after the release of the film starring George Clooney, but the artists’ recording and touring commitments posed too many conflicts last year.

Since “O Brother’s” release — and domination of the country albums chart — Krauss, Loveless and Harris have released new albums, 74-year-old banjoist Stanley has been relentlessly on tour and King is beginning a string of dates with the Muddy Waters All-Stars.

To bring the tour together required the combined energies of Immortal Entertainment Group, UTA, Metropolitan Entertainment and House of Blues Concerts. Shows, which include stops at Radio City Music Hall Jan. 29 and Universal Amphitheatre in L.A. Feb. 17, are being presented by Burnett and Joel and Ethan Coen, who wrote and directed the film.

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