State News

Three Cords and the Truth: Ken Burns premieres country music series

ART & CULTURAL — When historical filmmaker Ken Burns takes on a subject, they’re usually deep dives into the history and personalities behind an American phenomenon. He’s taken on subjects like the Civil War, Baseball, and National Parks. Beginning September 15, his latest, Country Music: A Film by Ken Burns, will premiere on the Public Broadcasting System (PBS), including Nashville Public Television (NPT) channel 8.

The term film is a bit misleading. The 16-hour docuseries will spread out over multiple episodes. Burns, and his co-producers Dayton Duncan and Julie Dunfey, conducted over 175 hours of interviews with over 100 people to capture the story of country music from its meager beginnings in 1923 up to the hey dey of Garth Brooks in 1996.

When asked why the series stopped in the mid-1990s, Burns said that he and his film crew were historians and the historical importance of the present moment in country music isn’t yet known. The series traces country music back to Ralph Peer’s first recording of Fiddlin’ John Carson and examines its Irish, Scottish, and African influences.

In particular, Burns examines the art of storytelling in country music by exploring the story behind the story of songs like Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” and Johnny Cash’s “I Walk the Line.”

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The docuseries also looks at the Louvin Brothers influence on modern country music. The duo, grew up in Henegar, Alabama (about an hour from southern, middle Tennessee) and spent much of their career in Knoxvile, Chattanooga, Memphis, and finally, Nashville. Jim Oliver’s Smokehouse in Monteagle hosts a museum dedicated to the Louvin Brothers.

Burns whittled down over 175 hours of interview into just 50 hours of usable footage. He will donate the raw footage for archiving at the Country Music Hall of Fame. The soundtrack, which showcases songs from Loretta Lynn to The Judds to Kathy Mattea and Johnny Cash, makes up a five disk box set with over 80 songs that hits stores on August 30.

To learn more, visit the film’s website or for a full schedule, visit the NPT website. •

{The Lynchburg Times is an independently owned and operated newspaper that publishes new stories every morning. Covering Metro Moore County government, Jack Daniel’s Distillery, Tims Ford State Park, Motlow State Community College, Moore County High School, Moore County Middle School, Lynchburg Elementary, Raider Sports, plus regional and state news.}

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