(Catfish Entertainment/Snapper Music)
In the early 1970’s outlaw country music came onto the scene to clear the air. The mainstream country music ideology of the day was known as the Nashville Sound, but folks like Willie and Waylon chose to do it different. In 1975 filmmaker Jim Szalapski had the idea to go to Austin, Texas and Nashville and capture the young singers and songwriters trying to make it in the business back then, and to hang out with them in their own surroundings and digs. The end result is the great movie Heartworn Highways, now re-mastered and re-released on DVD.
When Jim made the movie he made the decision to concentrate on younger musicians such as Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, Rodney Crowell, John Hiatt, David Allan Coe, and Steve Young. He even turned down an offer to film Willie Nelson at the time, choosing instead to focus on the still struggling artists that had yet to get over the hump. Guy Clark opens the movie in a small bar in Nashville playing his excellent tune "LA Freeway," and we are reminded of how sweet a song that is. Guy, like all the rest of the folks in this movie, looks very young, but his playing and singing is wonderful.
There are also some great shots of musicians that many may have forgotten. We get to watch Larry Jon Wilson in the studio as he records "Ohoopee River Bottomland." It makes you wonder how one could have missed out on this excellent swamp rockin’ tune over the years. It smokes. There is also footage of some southern rockers of the day as Charlie Daniels performs his rowdy two-step called "Texas" in a small college auditorium, and Barefoot Jerry are shown in the studio throwing down a great romp that reminds us of why they were so good. Towards the end of the film we see some real young faces as Rodney Crowell, John Hiatt, and a 17 year old Steve Earle hang out at Guy Clark’s house to trade some original songs. But perhaps the most fascinating footage is of the songwriting legend Townes Van Zandt.
In one poignant scene Townes is hanging out at his old house in Texas when a friend and neighbor stops by, an old black man named Seymor Washington. Seymor has been there and done that in his life having been born in the 1890’s. Seymor, Townes and a girlfriend of his are hanging out in the kitchen talking when Townes picks up his guitar and plays his great song, "Waitin’ Around To Die." Seymor gets caught up in the song, and you will too, and starts to cry as the story is told; "Come of age and I found a girl/ in a Tuscaloosa bar/ she cleaned me out and hit it on the sly/ Well, I tried to kill the pain/ I bought some wine and hopped a train/ seemed easier than just waiting around to die/ And then a friend said he knew/ where some easy money was/we robbed a man and brother did we fly/ But the posse caught up with me/ drug me back to Muskogee/ And it’s two long years just a waiting around to die."
This film captures those unique times in an unflinching way. It is as real and down to earth a music movie as you will find. The film has been cleaned up, the music is great, the sound and picture have been improved, and with almost an hour of extra footage on the DVD it is a true time capsule of an important period in American music.