For their film O Brother, Where Art Thou?, set in the American South during the 1930s, filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen collaborated with musician, songwriter, and producer T-Bone Burnett to compile a score that reflected the rich variety of musical influences of the rural South during the Depression. Burnett brought together a veritable who's who of American roots music for the project, and while the film was a moderate success, the soundtrack album to O Brother, Where Art Thou? was a surprise hit, topping the country charts for several weeks and helping to open the ears of a new audience to the beauty and rough-hewn poetry of bluegrass, traditional country, rural blues, and gospel music. Shortly before the film's release, Burnett assembled many of the artists who appeared on the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack for a special concert at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium (the original home of the Grand Ole Opry) to benefit the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum; the evening was filmed, and Down From the Mountain documents this very special night of music that celebrates America's musical past as it points to the future. Performers include Emmylou Harris, Dr. Ralph Stanley, Alison Krauss, the Cox Family, the Fairfield Four, the Whites, Chris Thomas King, and Gillian Welch. Holly Hunter, one of the stars of O Brother, makes a cameo appearance, as does noted country music enthusiast Billy Bob Thornton. Songwriter, musician, and historian John Hartford served as master of ceremonies for the concert (and the film); sadly, he died after a long bout with cancer less than two weeks before Down From the Mountain premiered in New York and Nashville in June 2001.
by Mark Deming synopsis