American Roots Music

American Roots Music
Cast: documentary
Studio: palm pictures
Rating: 8.5/10

There was nothing but anticipation when I first learned this movie was on its way to me. American Roots Music is as it sounds. It is the foundation of everything we see on Mtv today or hear on the radio. It’s the foundation of our music, the foundation of our parents’ music and their parents’ music. It started with the Native Americans and spiritual music.

American Roots Music starts with the introduction of music that went on to be called country and folk and so on. From the glittering banjo picking to the bellows of gospel onto the finger picking of a worn guitar, our roots are deep.

Thanks to individuals like the Lomax’s who sought out new music found the likes of Lead Belly and others who went in search of music from the deep south that had gone unheard by the rest of the nation. Honestly, there is no real way for me to sum up the almost four hours of history documented in this film. There is so much talent, so much history, so much power and passion, that my sitting here and trying to explain it just doesn’t seem enough. When you bring together the absolute genius of artists like Jimmie Rodgers, Gene Autry, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, and so many more, you are certain this is a classic piece of work.

The best aspect of this film is that the words often come from the legends themselves. There is no better way to tell a story than to have it told by those who have lived it. There is so much about country, folk, blues, jazz and more that I never knew existed, from the roots of bluegrass to the powerful soul of the delta. All these things that we’ve taken for granted are now brought to the light for all to see, most for the first time.

My only point of being lost was during the last hour of Cajun, Zydeco, Tejano, and Native American music. It seemed to have just been stuck in there with no real rhythm, almost like leftovers that someone felt had to be included. That hour doesn’t go by half as fast as the first three, whereas folk, country, blues and so on point us in a straight line to popular music today and where it came from. It seems that the time spent on Cajun and Tejano just stood alone without being much of an influence to any sort of popular music today. It ended up being lost on me completely.

American Roots Music isn’t just for the music lover or those who wish to get a musical education. It’s for anyone that enjoys music, period. My hope is that people will watch this and dive into one of the many legends and bring that music to their friends and family. Nothing would be better than knowing Robert Johnson’s legacy lives on somewhere in our world today or that Woody Guthrie has been discovered all over again. I guess the easiest way for me to sum up American Roots Music is to say that I once thought my music knowledge to be high and was proved wrong. If that knowledge was a B+ before, it’s certainly an A+ today, thanks to this powerful and needed documentary.

American Roots Music is now available on DVD and VHS.

+ charlie craine

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