film review: muscle shoals

jason isbell & the 400 unit @ the national

I’ve been thinking about Jason Isbell a lot lately.

For a couple of reasons: first, writing about the origins of blog name sent me looking through 2009 photos for some good ones of Jason; I haven’t photographed him since then, so it was a trip down memory lane for the shows I did. Second, because of his stellar new record Southeastern, which brought me back to his music, new and old, for the first time since, well, 2009. And third, because of this film, because though he’s moved up to Nashville, when I think of Muscle Shoals, I think of Jason Isbell, and I think of the Drive-By Truckers.

Mostly because of this film.

I had never heard of Muscle Shoals before I was introduced to the Truckers and their music. It turned out that I knew plenty about the music that was made there, but like most people, I didn’t know the Shoals, where I did know Detroit and Memphis.

“you’re gonna hear some of the greatest voices ever.”

Freddy Camalier’s doc is beautifully shot, to start with. It is a visual love letter to a part of Alabama that most people don’t think twice about. The interspersing of nature shots works for me because it highlights the isolation of that part of the country and makes double magic what happened and happens there. Bono talks about the music coming out of rivers, and I can believe it; that’s why those shots work. It ties the history of the place as a place to the history of the place as a soul mecca, which is necessary.

The immediacy of Rick Hall’s cutting his first track in Muscle Shoals is so important, and it’s paid proper tribute in the film, with testimony from luminaries like Keith Richards (<3 Keef). (There are some serious mustaches in this film.) Aretha talking about the groove and funk of the Swampers is cut with her vocals in a lovely enforcing ways. The magic of Percy Sledge sort accidentally luckily cutting ‘When A Man Loves A Woman’ there.

The discussion of the civil rights movement, and race — Wilson Pickett uses the word peckerwood to describe FAME Studios owner and producer Rick Hall — is well handled and even, though a little shoved to the side. The music is the focus, as it should be, but I would have been interested to hear more about the white band that backed these great African American soul musicians. Or not the band, but the interaction of the two. I loved the Aretha through line of the film; “one of those songs”. It seems that so much of the music made in Muscle Shoals was one of those songs.

It’s a great film; it runs at almost 2 hours and drags a bit in places because of that, but it’s worth watching, if you’re a fan of the music that it focuses on, or you’re a fan of the new music coming out of North Alabama (Alabama in general, really). Muscle Shoals was and is formative to American music today, and this documentary centers on that: how a small town in the middle of nowhere became so important. It does that, and it does it well.

Muscle Shoals opens at the Carolina Theatre in Durham tonight. You should go see it.

what i did on my summer vacation: the ‘every everything’ trailer

every everything shoot, august 2012

What I did on my summer vacation: the first trailer for Every Everything, the Grant Hart documentary that I shot with last August. My first two thoughts were how cool is this and I miss those guys so much. Among the best five days of my life, that work.

promo photos: grant hart

promo photos: grant hart

Having access to a gorgeous converted mill studio to shoot Grant, for future Every Everything promo, was a joy. I want a studio. And also some studio lighting. And Gorman’s 85mm f2.8 lens. And a million dollars, and a pony. And for the Orioles to win the World Series, if I’m asking for things.

But mostly a studio, and clients who were all as easy going, trusting, and expressive as Grant. (Not to suggest that everyone I’ve shot in the past wasn’t all those things; they were. But would that everyone ever was, really.)

promo photos: grant hart

promo photos: grant hart

promo photos: grant hart

promo photos: grant hart

every everything: the shoes

every everything shoot, august 2012

every everything shoot, august 2012

It’s not that I have a foot fetish, it’s that I really like shoes, and also I think that the way people stand is revealing. I’m never sure what they’re revealing until later, but it’s revealing. And when it’s photos of my shoes, it’s I was here, at this moment.

So I took a lot of pictures of shoes in the Cities. Look at those red shoes of Grant’s! Can you blame me?

every everything shoot, august 2012

I still have quite a few shots to share from the trip, so I’ll try to space the rest of those posts out around other content over the next few weeks. And I’ll stop talking about how amazing it was soon, too. I swear.

every everything shoot, august 2012

every everything shoot, august 2012

every everything, august 2012

every everything, august 2012

every everything, august 2012

promo photos: grant hart

every everything: a wrap-up

every everything shoot, august 2012

First, I am still so tired, you guys. I am so, so tired. I have a huge bruise-slash-scrapes-slash-lump-of-pain on my right shin from where the sound case fell out of the SUV trunk on Tuesday, I have a new scrape on my right knee from where I fell off the curb into 4th Street, I have an inexplicable and enormous bruise on my elbow where I don’t even know where it came from. My flight home was miserable. I still have 1200 photos to edit, and I’ve already been on a first pass through 2000.

My trip was completely amazing.

Continue reading “every everything: a wrap-up”

every everything: day 2

every everything: day 2

every everything: day 2

every everything: day 2

Day 2 of my shooting with the Every Everything crew. Lots of time in an SUV, but worth it for the stories. And the scars, as Craig Finn would probably say.

every everything: day 2

every everything: day 2

every everything: day 2

every everything: day 2

every everything: day 2

every everything: day 2

every everything: day 2