Bobby Karl Works The Nashville Film Festival’s ‘Muscle Shoals Documentary’

Nashville Film Festival LogoSaturday night’s screening of the Muscle Shoals documentary was instantly sold out at the Nashville Film Festival (April 20).

That isn’t particularly newsworthy, since almost all of the festival’s offerings were sell-outs this year. What is notable about Muscle Shoals is that it had a private screening as well. On Tuesday (April 23), BMI hosted an intimate gathering at its sixth-floor screening room for some of us who didn’t get to see the film’s Music City debut.

The engrossing documentary tells the unlikely story of how a small, out-of-the-way, northern Alabama community became a recording hotbed. It also explores the social fabric of the 1960s and 1970s when a group of white studio musicians, The Swampers, teamed up with soul singers during the Civil Rights era to create records of undying power.

The soundtrack includes “You Better Move On,” the first Muscle Shoals hit, as well as such timeless masterpieces as “Steal Away,” “I’d Rather Go Blind,” “I Never Loved a Man,” “Mustang Sally,” “Land of 1,000 Dances,” “When a Man Loves a Woman,” “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” and more. Intercut with the interviews are scenes of Alabama cottonfields, rural shacks, farmlands and the shoals of the Tennessee River.

The assembled cast is stunning. Among those telling the tale on camera are Aretha Franklin, Mick Jagger, Bono, Gregg Allman, Steve Winwood, Wilson Pickett, Alicia Keys, Keith Richards, Jerry Wexler, Candi Staton, Dan Penn, Spooner Oldham, Barry Beckett, Clarence Carter, Percy Sledge and John Paul White of The Civil Wars. Not the least of those testifying in the film isthe cornerstone Muscle Shoals business figure, Rick Hall. The life story of this tempestuous and driven musical great is reason enough to watch the film.

Rick & Linda Hall were there for the screening. So were T.K. Kimbrell, Hank Adam Locklin, Jon Freeman, Jody Williams, Susan Stewart, Whitney Daane, Natasha Powell, Tom Roland, Keb Mo, Mark Mason, Bob & Leslie Tomasina DiPiero, Clay Bradley, Abby White and Charlie Feldman.

I complemented Abby on her Nashville Scene story about the decaying animatronic animal band at the Strike & Spare. It turns out that Shooter Jennings wants to do a benefit to help raise the $10,000 needed to restore the attraction, which is one of only two left in the U.S.

As for Muscle Shoals, it has already drawn raves at several other American film festivals. Next, it heads to the London Film Festival and on to a European screening tour. PBS will air it in the future.

After the screening, BMI hosted a reception for the lucky attendees.

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