The Winding Stream Traces Roots of Country Music

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Carter Family Winding Stream

Beth Harrington directs and co-produces this important and informative documentary that follows the modern river of country music back to the winding stream that is it's source -- The Carter Family.

Before there was country music, before there was a Grand Ole Opry, there was A.P, Sara and Maybelle Carter. THE WINDING STREAM follows in great detail how these three family members became the foundation cornerstone of American country music, without glossing over the family tragedies and heartaches, including A.P.'s singular focus on collecting songs from the mountains and Sara's eventual divorce. The documentary is never dry, and is wholly engrossing, telling the story without the benefit of any dramatic re-enactments, relying instead on actual footage, photography and, of course, recordings of the songs and interviews.

The tale highlights how controversial border radio catapulted the sound of the Carter Family across the country, and how the younger Carters eventually got involved in what became a family entertainment business.

 

 

The story is interspersed with recollections of current artists who knew or were influenced by the Carter Family, and there are musical renditions here performed by Sheryl Crow, Roseanne Cash, The Carolina Chocolate Drops (whom I need to hear more of, and soon), and Grey DeLisle. (Critical Blast readers may recognize Grey's voiceover work -- and singing -- from BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD episode "Mayhem of the Music Meister!")

The only negative thing I could pick on about this documentary would be the tendency toward paper puppet animation -- the kind of thing you find on JibJab -- to illustrate the story of the Carter's journey, and lip-synching (and arm-moving) to original audio of their performance. This could have been done in a much less distracting manner, perhaps through the use of live stand-ins.

Packed with a surprising amount of live footage, THE WINDING STREAM is a must-have for anyone studying the rich history of American country music.

Grade: 
4.0 / 5.0