Coming to theatres today, Wednesday, December 16: THE WINDING STREAM
Beth Harrington’s look at the influence of the Carter and Cash families on country music bowed at SXSW last year. Further fest play included Cleveland, Nashville, Atlanta, the Southern Circuit, Woods Hole, Sound + Vision, DokuFest, Hot Springs Doc, New Orleans’ filmOrama, Galway, and St Louis, among others.
Harrington’s history lesson begins in the late 1920s at the dawn of modern country music, when the fledgling music industry sought to record Appalachian musicians as a source for new albums. Responding to the advertisements was AP Carter, who convinced his wife Sara and his sister-in-law Maybelle to travel from their rural mountain home to Bristol VA to perform for the big city music producer. As a result, the Carter Family was born, with AP also inspired to seek out other old Appalachian songs to add to their repertoire. As royalties from their recordings came in, they began to tour and amassed an appreciative audience via medical quack John R Brinkley’s powerful XERA radio station (Brinkley’s own bizarre story is the subject of upcoming Sundance documentary NUTS!). Among the listeners was Johnny Cash, appearing here in a 2003 interview just before his death, who would later go on to marry Maybelle’s daughter June. The charismatic June had joined her mother together with her two sisters in a permutation of the Carter troupe, further extending the family’s domination of the burgeoning music genre. Harrington weaves in the stories of these two families and their offspring – incorporating generous amounts of music, from old archival recordings to new renditions by the likes of Sheryl Crow and George Jones – to create an affectionate and often compelling tribute that’s accessible to both longtime fans and newcomers alike.