All abroad the Big Easy Express, where three distinct folk bands pow-wow on the floor of a vintage train and collaborate while journeying across six American cities. Directed by Emmett Malloy, this music documentary follows the first Railroad Revival Tour from Oakland, CA to New Orleans, LA and won the Headliner Audience Award at SXSW 2012. Mallow is joined by British folk-rock outfit Mumford and Sons, California dreamers Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and bluegrass crooners Old Crow Medicine Show.
“We’re playing music on a train with the country, across the country to see it the way [people] saw it more than a hundred years ago when we were all children,” muses Alex Ebert, frontman for Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. All bands bring different experiences to this vintage California Zephyr Silver Lariat train- Old Crow Medicine show has been recording music since 1998, while the other two released sophomore albums within the last 5 months. Yet they share the same wanderlust and interest in experiential music-making. Come on baby, do the locomotion.
Big Easy Express beats the “Americana vintage” drum in a borderline kitschy way, and while beautiful, some jam sessions seem too staged. But the live performances are the opposite of cookie-cutter- the best parts of the film are watching Mumford and Sons perform “The Cave” with the Austin High Marching Band and dancing along with Alex Ebert and Jade Castrinos sing favorites like “Up from Below” and the always-sentimental “Home.” It ends with a ten-minute finale of “This Train is Bound for Glory,” a raucous hoedown featuring all three groups. While Old Crow Medicine Show may have influenced the other bands’ sound, Mumford and Sharpe exemplify the future and diversity of folk music.
To find a screening of the Big Easy Express or enjoy the movie in the comforts of your own train, click here. For all my fellow Boston folk, there are two more screenings of the movie on 10/31 and 11/1 at the Museum of Fine Arts for $11.