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.
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...
The premise is good, the DVD cover looks promising--but ultimately I found it to be a disappointment. Nothing about it was particularly "bad"--but it didn't go deep enough. For example, Blues is supposedly covered here. OK, where did 12 bar blues come from? This DVD won't tell you. Bluegrass is similarly "covered" Where did bluegrass come from? Doesn't say--except that Bill Monroe suddenly started playing it in the 40's. That's a common theme. Nothing grew out of something else--people just suddenly started playing it! Out of nowhere! What's the role of British Isles folk tunes in the formation of American Folk Music? Lips sealed! They don't even mention it. They do slightly better with spirituals, tracing its genesis in slave songs, but they spend too much time on (and this is true of all musics they cover) whoever the current popularizers are of the genre. They hardly cover what the major themes are, or why they are still relevant today. They have a large roster of current...
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