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Heartworn Highways Revisited
1976's Heartworn Highways may have taken a while to get properly released and seen, but it proved a cult hit and quickly developed a following thanks to its frank and earnest depiction of the outlaw country music scene of the seventies and some great live footage and interviews with some pretty big names in that scene.
In 2015, filmmaker Wayne Price decided to make a follow up picture. Like the original movie, this follow up picture starts with a dedication, this time to Jim Szalapski, the director of the original film who passed away in 2000 before this follow up picture was made. From there, we get straight into some interview footage and the same type of live footage that made the first documentary so great, albeit this time with what was, in 2015, the current generation out outlaw country artists. This time around, audiences are lucky enough to get to witness some intimate interviews and fantastic live footage from newer outlaw artists like John McCauley, Langhorne Slim, Shovels & Rope, Nikki Lane, Johnny Fritz, Josh Hedley, Robert Ellis, Shelly Colvin, Andrew Combs and the late Justin Townes Earl (who passed away last year). The film also reconnects with Guy Clark, David Allan Coe and Steve Young, each of whom played a big part in making the original film such a memorable snapshot of the outlaw country movement of the seventies.
You very much get the feel in the interview sessions that these people are doing this not for money or fame but for a sincere love of the style of music that they all play. Price's film does a really good job of letting the different interviewees' distinct personalities shine through, everyone here has something worth saying about their experiences inside and outside of the industry. Not surprisingly, however, as solid as the interview clips are it's the live footage that makes this so worth your time if you've got an interest in or appreciation for earnest and heartfelt country music (there's nothing even close to pop country appearing in this documentary and it's all the better for it). Whether it be a performance in a backyard or in a small bar or a bigger show at The Grand Ole Opry itself, the skill of these musicians and the quality of their songwriting really shines through in a big, big way. You're also left with the feeling that a lot of the people who participated in this documentary and who are a part of this scene are friends off stage, it all feels like a very close-knit group and there's some charm that comes out of that which goes a long way toward making you like these people as much as you wind up doing.
The first Heartworn Highways film did have the benefit of capturing some pretty iconic footage of David Allan Coe playing inside the Tennessee State Prison and some genuinely wild footage of The Charlie Daniels Band tearing the roof off of a high school gymnasium. Heartworn Highways Revisited doesn't have any footage like that, it's more focused on smaller and more intimate performances but it's still loaded with some seriously great material.
Overall, this is a very worthy follow up to the excellent original film, working very much on the same level and providing a similar amount of interesting interviews and great live clips to make for a truly compelling film.
Heartworn Highways Revisited arrives on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.78.1 widescreen taking up 18.7GBs of space on a 25GB disc. This was shot digitally and so it obviously doesn't have any print damage or grain issues to discuss. The picture quality is pretty solid, it's clean and nicely detailed with good color reproduction. There are some minor compression artifacts here and there but the key word there being minor. Overall this looks just fine and provides a pretty nice viewing experience.
English language audio options are provided in 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo and 24-bit DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio options. Removable subtitles are available in English only. The 5.1 track spreads out the music into the rear channels and as such is a bit more immersive than the stereo track but they're both properly balanced, clean and clear. No problems here, the movie sounds very good.
Extras start off with an audio commentary with director Wayne Price. He speaks quite candidly about how and why he came to follow up Szalapski's original picture and his thoughts on that film. He also goes into lots of detail about what it was like getting the different artists that we see here involved with the film, what it was like interacting with them, who did what behind the scenes and a lot more.
The disc also includes twenty-seven minutes of Additional footage presented in 1080p with DTS-HD 2.0 audio. There's no live footage here, it's all interview clips, but again, some great material in here (the stories David Allen Coe tells about not getting paid time and time again are pretty heartbreaking, though a couple of lines seem to have been muted). Finishing up the extras on the disc itself are trailers for Heartworn Highways and the 2017 follow up film, Heartworn Highways Revisited as well as menus and chapter selection options.
Heartworn Highways Revisited works on very much the same level that the original film did, by documenting an earnest and believable look at the trials and tribulations that some very hard working touring musicians deal with. It also does a great job of portraying a fascinating snapshot of a musical movement that remains very much alive without the support of radio or major media play. Kino's Blu-ray looks and sounds quite nice and the commentary and extra footage is all very welcome. Highly recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.