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Arriving to the show at The El Rey - November 15, 2001
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Topic: Keith to appear in American Music Documentary Monday Night (tomorrow) Return to archive
10-28-01 09:49 PM
Jaxx PBS will be airing a show called Roots Music in four parts over the next FOUR MONDAYS. check your local listings.

This article is from the LA Times.

'Roots Music' Shows Melting Pot of Sound

By Susan King Los Angeles Times

HOLLYWOOD - PBS ushered in 2001 with Ken Burns' lavish 18-hour exploration of "Jazz," and beginning Monday, the network offers up "American Roots Music," a four-part series exploring such unique American music forms as blues, gospel, country, bluegrass, Cajun, zydeco and folk.
"It was just quite accidentally that both ('Jazz' and 'American Roots Music') happened around the same time," says executive producer and director Jim Brown, an Emmy Award winner responsible for the acclaimed music documentaries "The Hank Williams Tradition," "The Weavers: Wasn't That a Time!" and "Woody Guthrie: Hard Travelin'."

"Doing all of these documentaries over the years, it occurred to me that a number of the pioneers, the inventors of these unique genres of American music, were captured on film," says Brown. "But they were scattered all over the place. (I thought) maybe we could do the country a service by putting it together into one documentary so that people could have access to it."

Brown and fellow producers Jeff Rosen and Sam Pollard culled clips from 170 places, including collectors and museums. Narrated by Kris Kristofferson, "American Roots Music" was filmed in such locations as the Cajun Mardi Gras in southwestern Louisiana, the Lakota Reservation in South Dakota and the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. Interwoven with interviews and performances of such contemporary musicians as Bonnie Raitt, Keith Richards and Robbie Robertson are performances and interviews with pioneers such as Muddy Waters and Elvis Presley.

America is home to such a rich and diverse array of music because it is a melting pot, says Brown. "This story could have only happened in America," he said. "First of all, we are a relatively young nation. We don't have much of a cultural tradition. At the beginning of the 20th century, you would be hard-pressed to find people who would be able to describe what is America's musical tradition."

With the advent of railroads, roads, radio and records, the ethnic music that existed in America got "mixed up," according to Brown. "You got all of these forms that borrow from one another and these forms that emerge became uniquely American."

In the case of "tejano" music, says Brown, "you have Mexican-Americans who were in Texas before America was America. But with Western development, all of a sudden there are Czechoslovaks and Germans building the roads, among other things. They bring accordions, and Mexican musicians begin to learn those polkas. "Then they take it to another level - they add bass, drums and lyrics. All of a sudden, there is 'tejano' music. There are all of these kind of things that go back from one culture to another. It's really a gumbo."

"American Roots Music" premieres at 9 p.m. Monday on WNIN-PBS9 and continues on consecutive Mondays.
10-29-01 11:23 AM

Jaxx, as previously mentioned i was privy to it about a month ago. Bloody fantastic, and all interested in the Stones and where they "come from", this is a very desirable thing to make the time for.

Very Desirable ; )

10-29-01 02:20 PM
CS Sorry jaxx, I didn't see that you already posted the news so I just deleted and relocated my message

American originals

A four-hour PBS documentary series explores where American music came from - country, blues, folk, gospel, Western swing, bluegrass and more - and where it went, influencing rock, pop and even hip-hop.

© St. Petersburg Times,
published October 28, 2001


[Publicity photo]
“This is good music,” says legendary blues harmonica player James Cotton, now 66. His playing can be heard on the documentary’s title track.

You reckon it's not just limited to the love affair with the soundtrack for the film O Brother, Where Art Thou? -- which has now sold more than a million copies.

Nope, it's official: Folks are on fire for American roots music.

Beginning Monday, Emmy Award-winning director Jim Brown will treat fans to a slice of Americana with the first installment of American Roots Music, a documentary filmed in four weekly one-hour episodes.

Narrated by singer-actor Kris Kristofferson, American Roots Music examines the full range of American vernacular music, including country, blues, folk, gospel, Western swing, Cajun, zydeco, Tejano, American Indian music, bluegrass and all the hybrids you can get from them.

It features some big names as it explores the music from its incubation before recorded sound through its development with radio, records and film.

To tell the history of music in this country, Brown, 51, uses rare archival footage of legends such as Son House, Hank Williams, Robert Johnson, Bob Wills, Howlin' Wolf, Mississippi John Hurt and Sonny Boy Williamson.

Brown also treats us to interviews with contemporary artists. The episodes feature chats with B.B. King, Marty Stuart, Gillian Welch, Bonnie Raitt, Mavis Staples, Arlo Guthrie, Merle Haggard, the Rolling Stones' Keith Richards, Pete Seeger, Willie Nelson, Bela Fleck and Koko Taylor, among others.

Legendary blues harmonica player James Cotton was happy to participate in the project. Cotton's harp blowing can be heard on the film's title track, which is sung by country artist Ricky Skaggs and features several other luminaries.

"This is good music," Cotton, 66, says from his home in Texas. "It's a better sound than what's out today. For me, it's always been the blues. It's more of a feeling. The blues is just something you can feel. "

Cotton is happy about roots music's renewed popularity. He says lately he's noticed a lot more young folks at his gigs.

"I love it, the younger people," he says. "It makes me feel good. And it makes me feel young."

[Publicity photo]
Although he died at 29 in 1953, Hank Williams remains a seminal figure in country music.

Cotton says some musicians featured in American Roots Music, including two of his pals, the late Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker, should be regarded as the Mozarts and Beethovens of our time. He's thrilled to see tribute paid to them in a documentary.

"It's about time," Cotton says.

For Brown, whose previous films include The Weavers: Wasn't That a Time! and A Vision Shared: A Tribute to Woody Guthrie, it's not just a documentary, it's a labor of love. As a teenager, Brown hung out in New York's famed Greenwich Village. Seeing performers such as Mississippi John Hurt and Bob Dylan shaped the course of his life. As a young adult, he hooked up with Pete Seeger's campaign to save the Hudson River.

The director has a theory on why roots music is gaining in popularity.

"The music is good," Brown says. "It's honest. It's straight from the heart. It talks about real life. Perhaps there's been a void in communication with music for a long time now, and this music is filling that void.

"This music was never about making a buck," says Brown. "It's reassuring and refreshing to hear real human emotions -- struggles with injustice, love -- expressed in very passionate ways. In ways that are accessible to anyone. This is the music that we listened to through slavery, through the dust bowl droughts, through the civil rights movement and war."

[Photo: AP]
Seeing performances by Bob Dylan and others in New York’s Greenwich Village, says documentary director Jim Brown, shaped the course of his life.

Brown is interested not only in the history of roots music, but the way in which the music continues to inform rock, pop and hip-hop. He also wanted to show how immigrant music informed American roots music and how technology played a role.

"These are the first unique forms of American music," Brown says. "These recordings were being made when railroads and roads were being built. It really mixed stuff up."

Brown is ready for the criticisms that follow a project of this scope. He and his crew, which included historians at the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Institution, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Experience Music Project, worked for three years to collect information. But material was sometimes hard to come by.

"In no way is this encyclopedic," Brown says. "There are lots of people missing, in part because many of these performers are not on film." Brown recommends the companion book American Roots Music from Abrams Books.

A two-DVD video set, a four-VHS videotape set and a four-CD set of American Roots Music are also available in stores.

* * *

TV PREVIEW: American Roots Music debuts Monday at 11 p.m. and continues in the same time slot for the following three Mondays on WEDU-Ch. 3.

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