Chance Willie // Contributing Writer
Americana artists aren’t the big draw for most Bonnaroo fans, but the genre does have its admirers at the festival, as proven by the mid-morning crowd Saturday for a screening of “Heartworn Highways Revisited.”
The movie pays homage to the artists of this growing style of musical storytelling through the talents of longtime musicians like Bobby Bare Jr., Shelly Colvin and Jonny Fritz. It’s a recasting of the original 1975 “Heartworn Highways,” which focused on the creative genius of musicians like Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt, who now are icons to singer-songwriter aficionados.
Filmed mostly in Nashville locations, director Wayne Price, told the crowd after the screening that he first saw the 1975 movie about four years ago and was immediately struck by the need for a sequel.
Now more than ever, Music City is a town of a few big acts and a multitude of songwriters and musicians who cobble a career, sometimes by sheer determination, Price said.
Ironically, he noted, the first “Heartworn Highways” played at the 1976 Sundance Film Festival, but the film received no distribution deal because “at the time there were not any saleable starts in it. But there were stars in it.”
The cinema verite-style film weaves a narrative that focuses on the lives, away from the microphone and in front of an audience, of today’s musicians who keep alive the singer-songwriter tradition.
“It was cool,” said Nashville-based songstress Shelly Colvin. “It’s nice to know there are those moments that were so real and special that are preserved.”
Colvin was joined by Bare and Fritz after the screening for a short concert and a Q&A.
A crowd member asked how the musicians maintained their enthusiasm and diligence to their craft, Bare popped up with: “It’s all about the hustle.”
The film featured Nashville Americana musicians, a medley of raw live performances from artists such as Deer Tick, John Hedley, and Nikki Lane, as well as Bare, Fritz and Colvin.
In addition, viewers were taken into the everyday life of the artists, showcasing their ability to find happiness through music.
“Welcome to CMT cribs,” joked Fritz to the camera, referring to his beat up van.
Scenes like this “all happened really organically,” said Pierce, who explained how much of the networking occurred through parties at the home of John McCauley, lead singer/guitarist of Deer Tick.
The revisited version shows scenes of the artists eating, laughing and playing music with early “outlaw” artists such as Guy Clark and David Allen Coe.
Doing so reveals the parallels and differences between 40 years ago and the newly emerging Nashville scene.
“It’s the same music with no Republicans,” joked Bare, a man with deep roots in outlaw country. His father, Bobby Bare, is famous for songs such as “Detroit City,” and “The All American Boy.”
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