Kris Kristofferson, Dolly Parton, Garth Brooks, Merle Haggard
FilmInk rates movies out of $20 — the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth
…engaging, entertaining and alive at every turn…
Though he’s been at work way since the coining of the term, documentary filmmaker Ken Burns is the very definition of the “deep dive.” Famed and acclaimed for his exhaustive, no-stone-left-unturned investigations into various aspects of American history, sport and popular culture, Burns’ plainly and definitively titled TV series The Civil War (1990), Jazz (2001), The War (2007), Baseball (1994-2010) and The Vietnam War (2017) are widely regarded as the pinnacle of television documentary. Burns now turns his scrutineer’s eye to a deeply American art form with Country Music, which documents the long and wildly winding road of, yes, country music.
With reams (and reams, and reams, and reams) of historical footage and photographs, along with astute, informed and impassioned talking head interviews from a long list of music historians and A-list musicians and performers (Kris Kristofferson, Dolly Parton, Garth Brooks, Merle Haggard, Marty Stuart and Roseanne Cash, just to name a few), Ken Burns begins at the very beginning (the exporting of English folk songs to the Americas, and their slow, gradual, eventual morphing into something truly peculiar to The New World), and then moves with studied assurance through pretty much every chapter of what would become “country music” since. Yep, it’s all here: the emergence of Ground Zero pioneers, The Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers; game-changers like Hank Williams; the birth of Texas Swing; the melding of country and rock’n’roll; the “outlaw” movement; the ascendance of country stars to popular international stardom; and the different pockets and variants of country music that bubbled away in disparate parts of the US.
Nothing short of an at-home, on-screen university course, Country Music is a lengthy learning exercise that provides swinging door access into an often misunderstood, maligned and misrepresented music form. But don’t mistake this exhaustive brand of investigation for some kind of dusty, musty form of televisual academia: Country Music is engaging, entertaining and alive at every turn, popping and fizzing with humour, warmth and wonderful anecdotes told by natural born storytellers. Get ready to go deep…