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American Roots Music [DVD] (2001)

 NR |  DVD
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Format: Multiple Formats, Box set, Black & White, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Palm Pictures / Umvd
  • DVD Release Date: October 30, 2001
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005Q65K
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #112,420 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Special Features

  • Includes bonus full-length performances not seen on PBS: "Sitting on Top of the World" (Bob Wills), "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" (Earl Scruggs), "Never No Mo' Blues" (Doc Watson), "Down by the Riverside" (Sister Rosetta Tharpe), "Ossun Two-Step" (Steve Riley), "Rosalito" (Valerio Longoria)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com

O Brother, wherever thou art, behold what thou and thy kin hath wrought. With the documentary American Roots Music and its spinoffs (including a book and CD collection), producers Jim Brown and Sam Pollard clearly were influenced by the popularity of the 2000 film O Brother, Where Art Thou? and its music. You won't be seeing Eminem and Mariah Carey here, or even Duke Ellington and Ray Charles, but rather a comprehensive, if flawed, four-part documentary examining the various cultural and ethnic folk traditions that blended together to create the rich, multi- flavored brew that is American music.

Narrated by Kris Kristofferson, each of the four parts is a little less than an hour long. Episode One offers a brief overview before detailing topics like the spread of music via Victrolas and radio, the early days of country music and the Grand Ole Opry, the rise of black gospel music, and seminal blues musicians like Son House, Mamie Smith, and Robert Johnson. Episode Two deals with western music (Gene Autry, Bob Wills), Bill Monroe and bluegrass, Hank Williams, Woody Guthrie, and more blues (Leadbelly, Sonny Boy Williamson, B.B. King). Episode Three, perhaps the best of the lot, takes on urban blues (Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf), black spirituals, and the early '60s folk boom, while Episode Four studies Cajun, zydeco and Tex-Mex styles, along with Native American music and more.

The style is standard documentary, with interviews and photos interspersed with new and old live footage. The producers tout the presence of "rare performances" by Guthrie, Waters, Monroe, Clifton Chenier, and many others, and they're fascinating. But for whatever reason (lack of time or maybe lack of faith in viewers' attention spans) none is presented in its entirety. It's a drawback that is remedied to some extent by the addition of six bonus clips (three on each DVD) that are complete, including wonderful vintage films of Western Swing master Bob Wills and the remarkable gospel singer/guitarist Sister Rosetta Tharpe. --Sam Graham

Product Description

American Roots Music is a four-part documentary. This landmark television program explores the development of uniquely American music genres during the 20th century. Each 1-hour episode features seminal historic footage and musical performances by the pioneers of American music and traces the cultural evolution that shaped and influenced our rich tapestry of music. Masters in the fields of Folk, Country, Blues, Gospel, Western Swing, Bluegrass, Cajun, Zydeco, Tejano and Native American music are celebrated. You will see rare footage and hear music from artists ranging from the Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers, B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Son House, Woody Guthrie, Lead Belly, Bill Monroe, Hank Williams, Clifton Chenier, Flaco Jimenez, R. Carlos Nakai, Bob Dylan and many more. The astonishing performance footage is placed in context by colorful interviews with some of the artists themselves, their peers, family and friends.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
118 of 125 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars What Were They Thinking? November 13, 2001
Format:DVD
As an overview of roots music, it's hard to quibble with this fascinating package. But for real fans, there's one serious, serious problem:
There is some amazing footage that I have never seen, that they have unearthed. Live performances by Leadbelly, by Woody Guthrie, by Howlin' Wolf, by Hank Williams. And unlike Ken Burns' astonishing "Jazz," not only are these rare, rare performances cut horribly short...but the narrators talk over them, so you can't hear the artists' performances.
There are some full-length performances on the DVD that were not on the series when it played on TV..but they were of "lesser" artists, for the most part. Here were legends of the '40s actually captured live--including Leadbelly in prison garb--and they have mutilated the performances. Shame.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nearly Perfect July 6, 2004
By A Customer
Format:DVD
The PBS American Roots Music series - both the 4 part documentary on DVD and 4 CD boxed set - is a commendable work. It is an incredible education in not only popular American music and culture, but history, and should be required viewing and listening in high schools.
Many of the problems in American Society and its youth today stem from a complete lack of pride and self-awareness. A quick survey of popular music and culture reveal a frightening level of ignorance of America's history, values, and ideals. In short, while the series focusses on America's musical traditions, it does a fantastic job of conveying a sense of America's "roots" in a positive, enriching manner.
The DVD documentary strikes a perfect balance between glossing over, and becoming bogged down in, the material. Unlike the Ken Burns' projects that exhaust the viewer's interest and collapse under their own weight, the series is informative and educational, yet entertaining. It is not MEANT to be an exhaustive treatise on the subject - and so some reviewers here are missing the point - that would take 40, not 4, episodes. Rather, it is an introduction and a sampler; peaking our curiosity and prompting us to investigate and research further the wonderful heritage of music out there. And in that, it succeeds marvelously.
What also impressed me was the documentary's remarkable objectivity. While it eschews political correctness, it doesn't necessarily candy coat anything either. What it does do is present the material in a respectful, thoughtful, intelligent, and unbiased manner - something so lacking in today's political and social discourse.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars AMERICAN ROOTS MUSIC - DVD January 14, 2009
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
NOTE: PLEASE EXCUSE MY USE OF CAPITAL LETTERS ON THIS REVIEW. I WROTE THIS REVIEW BEFORE I LEARNED THAT IT'S NOT PROPER COMPUTER ETIQUETTE.

THIS IS A VERY COMPREHENSIVE, VERY AUTHORITATIVE , AND VERY HISTORICAL DOCUMENTARY OF AMERICAN ROOTS MUSIC. THIS DOCUMENTARY CONTAINS A WEALTH OF AMERICAN MUSIC HISTORY AND THE PIONEERING ARTISTS WHO LAID THE FOUNDATION FOR AMERICAN MUSIC!!! THIS IS A 4 HOUR, 4 EPISODE 2 DISC DOCUMENTARY WITH HISTORICAL PARTIAL PERFORMANCES, AND/OR COMMENTARY ON SUCH ARTISTS AS: JIMMIE RODGERS (THE FATHER OF COUNTRY MUSIC), THE CARTER FAMILY (THE FIRST FAMILY OF COUNTRY MUSIC), MUDDY WATERS (A LEGENDARY BLUESMAN), B.B.KING (A LIVING LEGEND OF THE BLUES), BOB WILLS (KING OF WESTERN SWING), HANK WILLIAMS (KING OF COUNTRY MUSIC), BILL MONROE (A LEGENDARY BLUEGRASS MUSICAN), EARL SCRUGGS (A LEGENDARY BLUEGRASS MUSICIAN), MAHALIA JACKSON (A SOUL MUSIC QUEEN), CHIFTON CHENIER (THE KING OF ZYDECO), WOODY GUTHRIE (A FOLK MUSIC PIONEER), AND MANY, MANY MORE!!!!

YOU GET COMMENTARIES BY MARTY STUART, GILLIAN WELCH (OF OF THE O BROTHER ART THOU MOVIE), RICKY SCAGGS, RUFUS THOMAS, BONNIE RAITT, MAVIS STAPLES, DOYLE LAWSON, RAPLH STANLEY, ARLO GUTHRIE, KEITH RICHARDS, SAM PHILLIPS, MERLE HAGGARD, BENICE JOHNSON, ROBERT MIRABAL AND MANY OTHERS.

EPISODE 1:
1.THE FISK JUBILEE SINGERS (THESE WERE AFRICAN AMERICAN SINGERS, WHO WERE IN COLLEGE, AND THEY SUNG SPIRITAL MUSIC, TO SUPPORT THEIR COLLEGE, THEY EVEN TRAVELED ACROSS THE COUNTRY PUTTING ON SHOWS THAT WERE WELL RECEIVED BY BOTH BLACK AND WHITE AUDIENCES. THEY STARTED AROUND THE 1870' BEFORE THERE WAS RECORDED MUSIC).

1. RECORDED MUSIC: A DOUMENTARY OF THE BEGINNING OF RECORDED MUSIC.

2.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not essential. October 27, 2012
Format:DVD
The premise is good, the DVD cover looks promising--but ultimately I found it to be a disappointment. Nothing about it was particularly "bad"--but it didn't go deep enough. For example, Blues is supposedly covered here. OK, where did 12 bar blues come from? This DVD won't tell you. Bluegrass is similarly "covered" Where did bluegrass come from? Doesn't say--except that Bill Monroe suddenly started playing it in the 40's. That's a common theme. Nothing grew out of something else--people just suddenly started playing it! Out of nowhere! What's the role of British Isles folk tunes in the formation of American Folk Music? Lips sealed! They don't even mention it. They do slightly better with spirituals, tracing its genesis in slave songs, but they spend too much time on (and this is true of all musics they cover) whoever the current popularizers are of the genre. They hardly cover what the major themes are, or why they are still relevant today. They have a large roster of current musicians gushing about why their forerunners were so awesome and special, but nothing particularly interesting gets uncovered.

A main subject in the first installment was Jimmy Rodgers. Where did he learn how to play? This DVD won't tell you. What were his influences? No idea. They mention his yodeling. Who did he model that after? Not worth mentioning. Its like this for every musician they profile. Important parts are left blank. Even the most basic aspects of their lives frequently aren't worth discussing, let alone elaborating on. Instead, you get a glossy, greatest hits run-through. A previous reviewer compares this approach FAVORABLY to the much more comprehensive Ken Burns approach. I couldn't disagree more. I found myself wishing, constantly, for the "Ken Burns complete" approach. Considering how many prominent artists they interviewed as well as all the classic footage provided, I can't help but think that this was a wasted opportunity.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Good intro -
With the book and this video, I will will be able to supplement materials I have and the students will hear AND see some of the pioneers of American music - so excited!
Published 12 months ago by Liz Lindsey
5.0 out of 5 stars Good
I liked this video. I enjoyed the content and like the way it was put together. I will watch it again.
Published 14 months ago by Michael J. Little
5.0 out of 5 stars Great piece
Well done video discussing the history of American Music. Great producer and great information presented in a very understandable and entertaining manner.
Published 19 months ago by C. Richard
2.0 out of 5 stars Some good stuff, but not satisfying overall
There's much to like in this piece, but as an attempt to document American Roots Music, it is definitely lacking.

1. Read more
Published on March 18, 2011 by Earl James
4.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as it should have been but definitely worth our attention
Some other reviews you'll read here find much fault with this documentary, mostly related to too little time spent on a genre or to not letting the wonderful musicians play... Read more
Published on February 11, 2011 by Steve Kohn
4.0 out of 5 stars American Roots Music- From Soup To Nuts-
From soup to nuts, indeed. I have over the past couple of years gone through the back pages of the American songbook to look at old style country music-eastern and western... Read more
Published on August 25, 2009 by Alfred Johnson
5.0 out of 5 stars A Journey through American Pop
This DVD answers the question "Where did American Pop Music come from"? It traces the idioms of folk, gospel, jazz, r&b, native American song, and country, and shows their... Read more
Published on August 12, 2007 by M. J. MORAN
1.0 out of 5 stars Weak, Confusing, Disappointing
Its hard to believe someone budgeted a 4-part series that says so little about such a fascinating and important subject. Read more
Published on February 18, 2006 by Peej
2.0 out of 5 stars Typical - very, VERY typical
Some great footage of real music legends edited into obscenely short clips with unenlightening narrative commentary by a bunch of folk-music has-beens and nobodies vieing for the... Read more
Published on February 16, 2005 by J. Norris
1.0 out of 5 stars Digitally Re-mastered Culture Wars
When I saw this picture of BB King on the cover of the DVD , I thought I was in for a real historic musical treat. Read more
Published on November 7, 2002 by "marcel_diallo"
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