To gauge the unexpected side effects of the quintuple-platinum ”O Brother, Where Art Thou?” soundtrack, consider the high profile of bluegrass king Ralph Stanley, last seen warbling about mortality’s terrors at the Grammys, where the album spawned five trophies.
Stanley is about to capitalize on his sudden mainstream visibility with the first release on DMZ, a new label founded by ”O Brother” soundtrack producer T Bone Burnett and the movie’s creators, the Coen brothers. ”You know, we’re gonna have a 75-year-old rock star this year,” Burnett says he told the president of Columbia Records, which will distribute Stanley’s self-titled album in June. ”I’ve taken great pleasure in Ralph beginning to see some justice. I know he’s enjoying it like crazy. He’s driving around in his shades and black leather jacket in a new black Jaguar.”
Stanley’s new Bono gear aside, the ”O Brother” breakthrough hasn’t led to all the hallmarks of stardom for acoustic country traditionalists: Young women still aren’t throwing their panties at Ricky Skaggs, Alison Krauss hasn’t had any Mariah-style meltdowns on ”TRL,” and Gillian Welch isn’t dating her choreographer. But as Peter Blackstock, coeditor of alternative country magazine No Depression, likes to say, ”This is the next medium-sized thing.”