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Documentary | Music




Release Date:

29 October 2001 (USA)  »

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Confused, Confusing, Unprofessional
9 February 2003 | by See all my reviews

It's really too bad about American Roots Music. So many of us have been aching for an intelligent and comprehensive series on the subject. Sadly, this isn't it. Initially broadcast via PBS, many of the PBS stations didn't even pick it up since it was of such little substance and production values.

Those of us who know much about the subject were insulted, while those who knew little or nothing were confused and disinterested.

The main problem with the series, seems to be it's lack of cohesive focus (jumping back and forth in the first two episodes from decade to decade, from one music form to another, with no effort at providing a cohesive segue linking the information in any way. Secondarily, the series merely glosses over the already acknowledged "stars" of each genre, paying far more attention to some (Flaco Jimenez, himself gets 15 minutes, while the folk music genre gets 20 minutes)and ignoring many, many others altogether.

We feel that the producer's heart was in the right place, but the production was either rushed to take advantage of piggybacking on the success of Ken Burns' Jazz series and companion book, or not infused with enough research and energy to make it move. Weak and poorly written narration presented by Kris Kristofferson (that bastion of Roots Music, himself!?)merely bogged down the already lifeless production. Further adding insult to injury was the frequent interpolation of pastoral scenes of countrysides, static shots of rivers and ponds, fuzzy and irrelevant archival footage. Interview segments with performers like Marty Stuart, Bonnie Raitt, and others, overstayed their welcome as the same sources were shown again and again and again.

With such a rich subject, a zillion good research sources, and a budget obviously adequate to make 4 segments, it is confounding how such a mediocre piece could have made it to air at all.

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