Wilson Pickett (centre) made great music in Muscle Shoals.
MUSCLE SHOALS (Greg “Freddy” Camalier). 111 minutes. Opens Friday (October 4). For venues and times, see listings. Rating: NNNN
Like the music that came out of Muscle Shoals, Alabama, this doc's got plenty of soul.
Everyone from Aretha Franklin to the Rolling Stones has recorded hits in the backwater town's humble studios. Many more heavy hitters join them to speak affectionately with the filmmakers about their time with Rick Hall of FAME studios, arguably the backbone of Muscle Shoals' music industry, and his "peckerwood" instrumentalists, later dubbed "the Swampers."
The interviews are a lot of fun, especially Mick Jagger's and Wilson Pickett's raucous versions of events, but not all the memories are pleasant. With collaboration came a whole lot of friction, a subject the talking heads don't shy away from. Nor does the film ignore the shocking personal traumas that Hall endured before he built his legacy.
Director Greg Camalier weaves the interviews together as if he were making music, composing a film with storytelling rhythms and emotional chords.
It runs a bit long; so many musicians recorded in Muscle Shoals that Camalier seems to have had a hard time deciding what to leave out. But soul aficionados will savour every beat and beg for more.