Speculation and analysis of the Coen brothers’ films has often portrayed them as drivers rather than reflectors of pop culture; NPR wrote earlier this year “The Coen brother's sparked a bluegrass revival with taheir 2000 film O Brother, Where Art Thou? – will they do the same for folk with their latest movie Inside Llewyn Davis?”1 But the posing of this question and the assumption of Inside Llewyn Davis as a top-down culture creator ignores that folk has always maintained a strong presence in American culture, and suggesting that a single film can bring folk ‘back into style’ ignores folk’s ongoing status as a key tenet of American culture and identity; as sociologist Leo Marx writes in his study of culture and technology's interactions in America The Machine in the Garden, the United States’ culture is one largely defined by the on-going power shift between its founding as an agrarian state and its subsequent evolution into the largest industrial powerhouse in the world2. While its pastoral roots may have lost their Sisyphean war against urbanization and technological progress, they have been succeeded and replaced by a deep-seated nostalgic longing for both the lifestyle lost and the music that said lifestyle begot, a nostalgia whose legacy has maintained a stronghold of influence over American popular culture.
We see this influence manifest itself largely in the American music scene, where a look at the still-fledgling decade reveals the commercial goldmine that is folk-nostalgic music. In 2012, folk-rock band Mumford & Sons3 – whose line-up includes a mandolin, banjo, resonator guitar, and string bass – released Babel, the best-selling album of the year in the United States. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, a group of a...
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Roderick, John. "Myth 61 Revisited." Seattle Weekly, September 1 2010. http://www.seattleweekly.com/2010-09-01/music/myth-61-revisited/ (accessed February 19, 2014).
Shelton, Robert. No Direction Home: The Life and Times of Bob Dylan. Cambridge, Ma: Da Capo Press, 2003 .
Sounes, Howard. Down The Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan. New York: Grove Press, 2001.
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