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American Roots Music [DVD]
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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
- 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)
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
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 deeper 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.
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.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
It's informative about what should be a vital topic to our American music history. However, it is dry and even a little boring at times. Read morePublished 6 months ago by A. Westcott
Great historical document. Unfortunately, it doesn't have Spanish or French subtitles.Published 11 months ago by Oxsebastien73
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 on August 25, 2013 by Liz Lindsey
I liked this video. I enjoyed the content and like the way it was put together. I will watch it again.Published on July 16, 2013 by Michael J. Little
Well done video discussing the history of American Music. Great producer and great information presented in a very understandable and entertaining manner.Published on February 22, 2013 by C. Richard
There's much to like in this piece, but as an attempt to document American Roots Music, it is definitely lacking.
1. Read more
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 morePublished on February 11, 2011 by Steve Kohn
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 morePublished on August 25, 2009 by Alfred Johnson
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 morePublished on August 12, 2007 by M. J. MORAN
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