Muscle Shoals

Now playing at Cinematheque.

You’ve heard the songs a dozen times before and have probably memorized each brilliantly written lyric. Lynard Skynard’s “Freebird”, The Rolling Stones’ “Brown Sugar” and Aretha Franklin’s “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You),” are just a few of the many classic hits of yesteryear  that are featured in Muscle Shoals.  The film will have you appreciating each artist and their creations in an entirely new way.

In his directorial debut, Greg “Freddy” Camalier explores the importance of a town alongside the Tennessee River called Muscle Shoals, the breeding ground for some of America’s most creative and defiant music. Music producer/songwriter Rick Hall founded FAME Studios in the town during a time of racial hostility, bringing both black and white races together to create songs which would change the world.

In one of the many interviews, U2’s Bono emphasizes the magic of FAME studios and the great importance it has had on the world.  He claims that the songs are full of sass and grit, seemingly coming from the swap itself. Camalier drives home Bono’s points, filling the picture with beautiful Malick-like images of a country life that is calm, peaceful, innovative and creative. What essence drove this town to such greatness? The director lets us ponder.

Camalier is relentless in his research, fleshing out the film with nostalgic archival footage of those who had been changed by FAME Studios. Interviews with Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Alicia Keys and others provide exceptional insight and thought provoking anecdotes, greatly hyping the historical importance of the rural town. The director expresses the great importance of racial harmony in the success of each artist. The 60s, especially in the South, was a time of great racial segregation. However, within their walls there was no sense of colour discrimination. Muscle Shoals is a tremendous achievement that every aspiring artist needs to see.

Published in Volume 68, Number 11 of The Uniter (November 13, 2013)

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