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American Roots Music [DVD]
American Roots Music
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts, Documentary
NR     2001

American Roots Music is a four-part documentary. This landmark television program explores the development of uniquely American music genres during the 20th century. Each 1-hour episode features seminal historic footage an...  more »


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Movie Details

Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Country, Pop, Rock & Roll, Other Music, Documentary, Documentary
Studio: Palm Pictures / Umvd
Format: DVD - Black and White,Color
DVD Release Date: 10/30/2001
Original Release Date: 01/01/2001
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2001
Release Year: 2001
Screens: Black and White,Color
Number of Discs: 2
SwapaDVD Credits: 2
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 10
Edition: Box set
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

What Were They Thinking?
Lew Harris | Santa Monica, CA USA | 11/13/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)

"As an overview of roots music, it's hard to quibble with this fascinating package. But for real fans, there's one serious, serious problem: There is some amazing footage that I have never seen, that they have unearthed. Live performances by Leadbelly, by Woody Guthrie, by Howlin' Wolf, by Hank Williams. And unlike Ken Burns' astonishing "Jazz," not only are these rare, rare performances cut horribly short...but the narrators talk over them, so you can't hear the artists' performances.There are some full-length performances on the DVD that were not on the series when it played on TV..but they were of "lesser" artists, for the most part. Here were legends of the '40s actually captured live--including Leadbelly in prison garb--and they have mutilated the performances. Shame."
Digitally Re-mastered Culture Wars
marcel_diallo | Oakland, CA. | 11/08/2002
(1 out of 5 stars)

"When I saw this picture of BB King on the cover of the DVD , I thought I was in for a real historic musical treat. When I read the back of the box and saw that they had rare footage and that they actually had a chapter on Zydeco, I got even more excited. I immediately rushed to the sales counter at Tower Records and gave them my hard earned 40 dollars plus tax. When I got home, I put the DVD in the player and main menu appeared. I selected the chapter on Zydeco, because it is a music that my family in Southwest Louisiana was instrumental in creating. When the video began to play, my excitement turned to disgust, for they attempted to present this very Black Louisiana Creole music as a spin off of so-called "Cajun" music. Other than the brief footage on Clifton Chenier, the video didn't interview or expose the viewers to not one Black Creole creator of the music. Instead they interviewed various white folks, who even if they considered themselves experts, are at best outsiders of the Black Creole culture, and judging from what they shared on the video they didn't know that much about the music. In the chapter covering Zydeco I would have loved to see some rare footage or mention of the "juré" music of the Black Southwest Louisiana Creoles that later became what is called Zydeco. I would have loved to hear stories from the common folk around Opelousas, Ville Platte, Mamou, Eunice and Plasiance telling about the racism of the Cajuns toward the Black Creoles of the area, and how this racism reinforced the seprate musical worlds of the Cajuns from that of the Black Creoles. Instead this video painted a very false picture of cultural homogeneity between two very distinct people who have been at odds for over two centuries. While it is true that the Black Creoles of Southwest Louisiana had French folk songs in their repetoire, Black Creole music ( including so-called "Zydeco") is no spin off of Cajun music. To the contrary, Cajun musicians are borrowing from Black Creole music at an alarming rate. In fact the only other musicians covered in the Zydeco segment is a band of white folks who according to the video are "blending elements of Cajun music, Zydeco and Swamp Pop". The makers of this video should have dug a little deeper into American soil and touched the deepest roots before projecting such an influential film into the market place of ideas. This DVD is sure to mislead at lease a million people. People should watch this video with caution.(reprinted with permission from blackdotcafe magazine oct/nov 2002 issue)"
Nearly Perfect
Peej | 07/06/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)

"The PBS American Roots Music series - both the 4 part documentary on DVD and 4 CD boxed set - is a commendable work. It is an incredible education in not only popular American music and culture, but history, and should be required viewing and listening in high schools. Many of the problems in American Society and its youth today stem from a complete lack of pride and self-awareness. A quick survey of popular music and culture reveal a frightening level of ignorance of America's history, values, and ideals. In short, while the series focusses on America's musical traditions, it does a fantastic job of conveying a sense of America's "roots" in a positive, enriching manner.The DVD documentary strikes a perfect balance between glossing over, and becoming bogged down in, the material. Unlike the Ken Burns' projects that exhaust the viewer's interest and collapse under their own weight, the series is informative and educational, yet entertaining. It is not MEANT to be an exhaustive treatise on the subject - and so some reviewers here are missing the point - that would take 40, not 4, episodes. Rather, it is an introduction and a sampler; peaking our curiosity and prompting us to investigate and research further the wonderful heritage of music out there. And in that, it succeeds marvelously.What also impressed me was the documentary's remarkable objectivity. While it eschews political correctness, it doesn't necessarily candy coat anything either. What it does do is present the material in a respectful, thoughtful, intelligent, and unbiased manner - something so lacking in today's political and social discourse. So in this sense, folks looking for something with an "agenda" - conspiracies, skeletons in the closet, and historical revisionism - may be disappointed by the documentary. The CD boxed set is equally well-done: a fantastic booklet, thorough liner notes, and collection of songs that is a music lover's dream. Again, it is intended to be a sampler - great songs by landmark artists - not an exhaustive account of American Roots music. And also like the documentary, its meant to be a enriching, uplifting - not deconstructing - experience.If the series has a shortcoming, it is the absence of one of the major "roots" - Jazz - which was no doubt and most unfortunately excluded, because of the recent Ken Burns' PBS documentary. But to exclude Jazz from the discussion of American Roots music, means we do not have the entire picture. And so in that sense, the series is somewhat flawed.Still, its hard to find any other fault with the series. This is a work that TRULY embraces and celebrates America's cultural diversity. Entertaining and enlightening, I would heartily recommend owning the box set and DVD for one's own edification as well as a way to help introduce friends and family to REAL American music - in all its forms."
Weak, Confusing, Disappointing
Peej | NJ | 02/18/2006
(1 out of 5 stars)

"Its hard to believe someone budgeted a 4-part series that says so little about such a fascinating and important subject. This is truly one of the worst documentaries I've ever seen and in four volumes! The first episode makes no sense, its just bits and pieces of sound clips, film and photos supposedly representing the development of roots music but there's no story that ties it together. For example, gospel music is one of the foundations of roots music. The documentary spends a fair amount of time on the topic but gives no real explanation of what it is or why its so important. You have to already be familiar with the history of american roots music to put together the confusing pieces. Kris Kristoffersen narrates and sounds like he's about to fall asleep. Its very lame, don't waste your money."