They call it the blues … but this film will have you smiling with joy throughout. Blues music is timeless and cuts across the generations – a theme borne out by the musical collaboration we witness in this delightful doco, a must-see for fans of the genre (as well as soul, hip-hop, jazz, pop and rock: it’s a seminal form).
In the 50s and 60s, the Stax Recording studio in Memphis stood apart as what William Bell describes as a ‘musical oasis’. While musos of all colours, creeds and ages jammed inside and produced some of the finest sounds of the era, Martin Luther King was outside raging against segregation and the Freedom Marchers were demanding change.
Take Me to the River documents the recording of the album of the same name and sees the legendary masters mentoring the new generation, in an attempt to ensure the foundations of soul and blues are not lost; a motivation made poignant by the fact that several of the veteran musicians featured in the film have since passed away.
Covering nine sessions in total, the film is full of magic moments, like blues legend Otis Clay recording Tryin’ to Live My Life Without You with pint-sized rapper Lil P-Nut. And Charles ‘Skip’ Pitts (the man responsible for the signature Memphis wah-wah guitar sound) recording with soul man William Bell and Snoop Doggy Dog.
Surprisingly the combo produces a sound that works, and the obvious mutual respect between the three generations is truly heart-warming.
For many of the young artists, like rapper Frayser Boy, it was the first time they had ever recorded with a live band. As Bobby Rush laments, modern music ‘is all sampling… if we’re not creating anything new there’ll be nothing left to sample’.
Take Me to the River screens on Saturday March 7 at 2pm. Tickets go on sale Monday 23 February at www.bbff.com.au and festival venues. For all the festival news, subscribe or follow BBFF on Facebook.