It's way too easy to dismiss this album as a novelty. After all, movie stars singing songs in a comedy movie rarely amounts to anything substantial. However, the Oscar nomination for "A Kiss At The End of The Rainbow" lends this album credibility. Not to mention, most of these people have been singing for years. Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara frequently had musical numbers on SCTV. Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, and Christopher Guest perform here as The Folksmen, but they are probably best knows as their alter egos, Spinal Tap.
I can't say that every song is a winner. I'm not a huge fan of the stylings of The New Main Street Singers. That's my taste. But, this is a movie soundtrack, and those songs have to be, well, that annoying for the movie to work. As an album, well, I could without!
Mitch & Mickey (Levy and O'Hara) sing a beautiful song called "When You're Next To Me" on track 3. It's nothing special until the second verse, when O'Hara comes in with her harmonies, and at that point I can believe that this is a real, serious folk duo. After all, they've been working together in various incarnations almost as long as their movie counterparts. Great song, and a great performance.
Elsewhere, The Folksmen pull out their greatest hit, "Old Joe's Place", a fun novelty track but instantly catchy and memorable. You won't be able to stop singing, if you can keep up with the rapid fire lyrics. Even better is "Never Did No Wanderin'", on which the three singers meld perfectly. Not to mention these guys can actually play their instruments.
Lyrically, the jokes (when present) are sometimes a little subtle. For example, "Blood On The Coals". Since there were so many folk songs about train accidents, and just as many folk songs about coal mine disasters, why not combine the two? So it's a song about a train that crashes into a coal mine.
Elsewhere, the jokes are more obvious. I won't even tell you how The Folksmen end their cover of "Start Me Up", except that they do it faithfully to the Stones' original.
Although I cannot pick a favourite song, I think "A Kiss At The End Of The Rainbow" is as beautiful and perfect as music gets.
Don't let the comedy tag scare you off. These are just great songs. It should hardly be a surprise -- The Folksmen used to open for their alter egos Spinal Tap decades ago! These guys are all pros.