Country Music by Ken Burns

The Rub (Beginnings-1933)

Series 1 - Episode 1 The Rub (Beginnings-1933)

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Review

If you know Ken Burns’s award-winning work (The Civil War, The Vietnam War, Jazz etc), you’ll know his documentaries are epic. This is no exception. Filmed over eight years and as thoroughly researched as always, it explores the history and evolution of America’s country music from its roots in hymns and the blues to today’s mainstream style. A real treat for fans, it’s an education for everyone.

Some names may be unfamiliar – Fiddlin’ John Carson, for instance – but the black and white photos, archive footage and recordings from singing families such as the Carters perfectly evoke the early days of hillbilly music. Variety magazine once called country music “nasal-twanging, illiterate and ignorant” although the likes of Kris Kristofferson, Merle Haggard and Carlene Carter offer different definitions. However, it’s Dolly Parton who sums it up best: “It’s a simple way of telling stories, experiencing and expressing feelings. You can dance to it, you can cry to it, you can make love to it … you can even play it at a funeral,” she explains.

Summary

New series. The history of the American art form and how it evolved across the 20th century. The first programme explores the genre's earliest years up to 1933, when so-called `hillbilly music' grew in popularity. After centuries of percolating in the American South, hillbilly began reaching more people through the new technologies of phonographs and radio. The Carter Family, with their ballads and old hymns, and Jimmie Rodgers, with his combination of blues and yodeling, became its first big stars. Contributors include Dolly Parton, Rosanne Cash and Merle Haggard. Narrated by Peter Coyote.

Cast & Crew

Narrator Peter Coyote
Contributor Dolly Parton
Contributor Rosanne Cash
Contributor Merle Haggard
Director Ken Burns
Documentary Music