REVIEW: Jump on the ‘Big Easy Express’ with Mumford & Sons

DocumentaryFolk music seems to go through an ebb-and-flow process. Its origins are still celebrated, and many of the important voices from the genre, including Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Pete Seeger, are now household names. Recently, Mumford & Sons jump-started a folk revival that quickly went mainstream, gathering fans at arenas and top accolades on awards shows.

Big Easy Express, a documentary by Emmett Malloy, charts Mumford & Sons as they travel across thousands of miles of railroad track, playing to throngs of audiences in the heart of the United States. Joining Mumford & Sons are Old Crow Medicine Show and Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, all talented groups.

Undoubtedly, the built-in audience for Big Easy Express consists of Mumford & Sons fans, and this group of fans will surely walk away from the documentary satisfied. The band’s obvious skills are on beautiful display, both on the historic train and in the six cities where they play concerts. Ditto for fans of Old Crow Medicine Show and Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros. In fact, some Mumford fans will find themselves purchasing the music of the other bands rather quickly after the film’s conclusion.

However, besides being solely for the converted, there’s an unexpected pleasure in the music film. Other than the performances, which take up the most time in the documentary, there’s a true sense of Americana on display. The folk music couples with images of the heartland to create a stunning postcard of communities coming together around their shared love of folk music. Big Easy Express is as much a movie about the music as it is about the feelings of why folk music stirs the soul so much. The lyrics sing, the beats pump and the stories are told; there’s something quite American about the film and its journey. That’s saying a lot being that Mumford & Sons are based out of London.

Malloy is a skilled director who offers both behind-the-scenes access and helpful fly-on-the-wall coverage. The best part of his music gathering is done in the train cars where the bands spend time in between cities. This is when audiences are able to see real, improvised showcases of pure music. There’s creation and spontaneity in the air.

For those audience members wishing to relive musical moments from California to New Orleans with some of the best bands in the business, Big Easy Express is easy watching that proves both enjoyable and poetic.

By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com

  • Big Easy Express
  • 2012
  • Directed by Emmett Malloy
  • Featuring Mumford & Sons, Old Crow Medicine Show and Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros
  • Running time: 100 minutes
  • Not Rated
  • Rating: ★★★½

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at Time.com, among other publications. E-mail him at john@hollywoodsoapbox.com

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