Connections between Coen Brothers' Films and the Laurel Theater, Knoxville

Compiled by Lou Gross - December 2013

Over the years many people have asked me while I've been at the sound board about connections to the music and performers in "O Brother, Where Art Thou?". With the appearance of yet another Joel and Ethan Coen film, "Inside Llewyn Davis", with a musical theme closely connected to performers in the history of the Laurel, I here present my own somewhat constrained compilation of connections. Corrections and additions are welcome. It has been my pleasure to be present for many of the concerts given by the performers noted below and for most of these I was the volunteer house and recording sound engineer.

Inside Llewyn Davis


Nancy Blake appears in the film as a singer (Elizabeth Hobby). Nancy performed several times at the Laurel along with Norman Blake (11/18/88, 2/8/92, 2/19/93, 2/25/94, 3/11/95)

Music on Soundtrack (Note the below is mostly about the authors of the music - the soundtrack has mostly modern recordings):

Nancy Blake - The Storms are on the Ocean (a Carter Family song) see above for her performances at the Laurel

Dáithí Sproule music for the "The Death of Queen Jane" a traditional ballad. He has performed at the Laurel with Altan (2/10/90, 3/20/92, 3/13/94) and with Peter Ostroushko (9/21/03), and at least one other time.

Ewan Maccoll - author of "The Shoals of Herring" - never appeared at the Laurel but his wife Peggy Seeger has several times.

A featured song in the movie is "Green, Green Rocky Road" by Len Chandler. It is the title track for an album by Guy Carawan released by June Appal records in 1976. Guy and his wife Candie have been longtime supporters and have performed at the Laurel numerous times.

O Brother, Where Art Thou?


The Fairfield Four Isaac Freeman, Wilson Waters, Robert Hamlett were gravediggers in the film and performers on the soundtrack. As members of the Fairfield Four they have appeared at the Laurel several times (4/28/95, 3/9/96, 10/25/03 and at least one other time)

Gillian Welch A small part as a customer in the film but also was a music arranger - Laurel performance 4/25/96 (with David Rawlings)

Ed Snodderly A small part as a village idiot musician in the film - appeared at the Laurel as part of The Brother Boys with Eugene Wolf (4/25/87, 5/7/94, 4/13/95, 10/13/95, 11/21/96, 4/23/97) and separately (1/27/06).

David Holt A small part as a village idiot musician in the film - appeared at Laurel several times including 10/81.

Jerry Douglas Small part as a dobro player in the film - appeared in the first concert after the Laurel reopened (after the fire which closed the theater from 1982-1986) with Maura O'Connell and Russ Barenberg (10/31/86 Jerry dressed up as a nun for the second set for Halloween, 2/10/89), (10/2/87 with Peter Rowan), (4/23/97 with the Brother Boys).

Music on Soundtrack:

Norman Blake – see list above for Nancy Blake for performances - there is at least one other time he has performed solo.

Jerry Douglas – see above for performance list.

The Fairfield Four – see above for performances.

Alison Krauss appeared with Union Station (9/15/89).

Pat Enright, Mike Compton, Stuart Duncan - with Nashville Bluegrass Band (1/17/87, 11/17/87, 11/4/88, 4/30/94).

John Hartford – appeared twice on "tax" weekend, as he called it 4/14/88, 4/15/88.

Tim O'Brien – with Mollie O'Brien and the O' Boys (2/20/97), solo (1/22/05, 4/1/06 and least one other time).

Maura O'Connell – 10/31/86, 2/10/89, 5/4/90, 10/20/95.

David Rawlings – 4/25/96.

Dr. Ralph Stanley – performed at the Laurel 3 times with the Clinch Mountain Boys before O Brother hit. The last performance was moved so that he could perform solo on the Grammys and then a week later at the Laurel.

Gillian Welch – 4/25/96.

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Last Modified: December 23, 2013