American Soundtrack

A shorthand history of American music wouldn’t be complete without mention of FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, where a white sharecropper’s son, Rick Hall, pumped the spirit of the South into several decades’ worth of rock and soul hits alike. Using a stable of local session musicians, Hall produced powerhouse records with a back-woodsy groove for far too many artists to name here, from Aretha Franklin to the Osmond Brothers. But Hall’s history didn’t play out as a Cinderella story, and its many highs and lows, punctuated by a constant soundtrack of the studio’s pop-music canon, are lovingly detailed in Muscle Shoals, a documentary by Boulder filmmaker Greg “Freddy” Camalier.

If he skimps on some of the facts about Hall’s personal and alienating differences, both with his studio musicians and Atlantic Records honcho Jerry Wexler, Camalier rolls out a who’s-who of rock stars to sing Hall’s praises as a producer. Interview materials with Aretha, Bono, Keith Richards, Percy Sledge, Alicia Keys, Clarence Carter, Gregg Allman and many others are interspersed, and the music itself precludes any questioning about what made the Muscle Shoals sound so unforgettable. It’s a fabulous listen from start to finish.

See Muscle Shoals tonight when it screens as part of the International Film Series; shows are at 7 and 9:15 p.m. in Muenzinger Auditorium on the University of Colorado campus in Boulder. Admission is $6 to $7; find out more at or call 303-492-1531.
Tue., Nov. 5, 7 & 9:15 p.m., 2013

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Susan Froyd started writing for Westword as the "Thrills" editor in 1992 and never quite left the fold. These days she still freelances for the paper in addition to walking her dogs, enjoying cheap ethnic food and reading voraciously. Sometimes she writes poetry.
Contact: Susan Froyd