I've been watching a lot of music documentaries on Netflix lately. Eagles, Tom Petty, Rush, John Coltrane, George Harrison, Metallica, John Mellencamp...and the list goes on. But in the past few days, one music documentary, to me, has stood from the others.
REALLY stood out.
The film is called "Take Me To The River." Set just a three hour drive west down I-40 from Nashville, it's about the legendary recording studios and artists in Memphis. The studios--Stax, Royal, and others--took on the personalities of their founders and the artists who recorded there: Otis Redding, Booker T and the MGs, Johnny Cash...it was all about integration of music, color, and sound.
In the movie, they state that Memphis and the Mississippi Delta saw the birth of more musical genres than anywhere else on the planet, and would influence and inspire artists around the world.
Willie Mitchell, the founder of Royal Studio, said that country music and blues/R&B are cousins. One born out of abject poverty in the Appalachian and Ozarks, the other born out of slavery, the two forms of music collided and made a beautiful explosion of sound in Memphis.
In most cases, I love the collision of sounds. Country music claims Hank Williams, but how could you listen to Hank's music and NOT call it the blues. Even back further to Jimmie Rodgers--he was as much the blues as Robert Johnson. Let's skip forward to Ray Charles--definitely a cross-genre artist. A lot of his songs deserved airplay on country radio, but none really did get played until his duet with Willie Nelson, Seven Spanish Angels.
Today, Chris Stapleton exemplifies the cousins theory with his bluesy style of country. And you can't talk about the effect of blues on country without mentioning Lee Roy Parnell. In fact, since I mentioned Lee Roy Parnell, Texas Music has drawn heavily from blues guys like Stevie Ray and Jimmie Vaughan, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and others.
Next time you're going to download or stream something country, take a few minutes and discover some great blues artists of today like Keb' Mo', Beth Hart, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, or Joe Bonamassa. And next time you're about to download or stream something blues, discover some great country artists like Lee Roy Parnell, James House and the Blues Cowboys, and Chris Stapleton.
There are a lot of names I haven't mentioned--none of them intentionally. But I didn't want this blog to be a history lesson. I just wanted to give you a couple of insights: one, into the close relationship between country and blues; and two, into the very close relationship of me and my music.
I'd love to know what you think about this week's blog. Please comment on our Nashville Access social media: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @nashvilleaccess; or on my own social media, again, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @camowallaceusa.
And, check out some great music documentaries. You'll probably find a close relationship to you and your music.