I just finished watching a 16-hour documentary, Ken Burns’ Country Music.
I didn’t want it to end.
Rock and roll. Rhythm and blues. Funk. Soul. Classical. Americana. Roots. Never country. Almost never.
There was my Dwight Yoakam period. Guitars, Cadillacs, and Hillbilly Music. He was so country and old-school, he was hip.
Not long after that, Johnny Cash teamed up with Rick Rubin and produced American Recordings. Cash was old, the production bare, stripped down to Cash’s raspy, but still strong voice singing Nine Inch Nails and gospel and old folk songs. One of my favorite albums of all time.
I knew a little about Hank Williams. Hear that lonesome whippoorwill, he sounds too blue to fly. Williams died in Oak Hill, West Virginia.
Kathy Mattea was born just a few miles from where I was.
And somehow I knew that the music I listen to now, The Avett Brothers, Tyler Childers, Parker Milsap, has its roots in country music.
And then there’s this whole songwriting thing I’ve been tinkering with.
So when I heard about the Ken Burns film, I knew I was going to watch it from beginning to end.
And here’s the thing. Yes, it’s about music. There are beautiful voices, virtuoso instrumental performances, showmanship and charisma. But also performers who wouldn’t make the first cut in today’s made-for-tv singing competitions. Modest talent. Three chords and the truth. The truth being what it’s really all about. Triumph and joy, but more often struggle and heartbreak. Stories set to music. No achy-breaky heart. More like Roseanne Cash singing I Still Miss Someone at her father’s memorial.
If you’re a writer, you’ll find inspiration in the film. If you’re a songwriter, you should be required to watch it. It features some of the best songwriters ever.
I’m so lonesome I could cry. – Hank Williams
I’d trade all my tomorrows, for one single yesterday. – Kris Kristoferson
I’m crazy for trying, crazy for crying,
and I’m crazy for loving you. – Willie Nelson
Go rest high on that mountain
Son, your work on earth is done.
Go to heaven a-shoutin’
Love for the Father and the Son. – Vince Gill
I think I may be the only who saw it. Every time I try to start a conversation about it, seems like no one else has watched it.
Have you? If not, you can still watch the entire film online. Click the link below.