Heartworn Highways Revisited – Review
4 stars out of 5 at Obladoo.se
In this sequel to Heartworn Highways, the roots of 1976 are ever present. Guy Clark, who looks like Colonel Sanders after a bar fight is featured, and old, beautifully shot footage of Townes van Zandt is also used throughout the film. But Heartworn Highway Revisited is not a nostalgic tribute; it builds on what was, but focuses on what is now. Artists like John McCauley, Jonny Fritz, Josh Hedley, Justin Townes Earle, Shovels & Rope, Langhorne Slim, Robert Ellis, Shelly Colvin and Phil Hummer have now inherited the scene and the film portrays a contemporary outlaw movement that is alive and well. Actually, the main difference between the artists from the 70s and the contemporary scene seems to be that today's outlaws appears to be in better shape, both physically and mentally. They are not burning the candle in both ends, even though their attitude to life is not that different from the previous generation.
As in its predecessor, the filmmakers typically visit the musicians in their home environments. This music isn’t, and will never be, suitable for large arenas. The songs are performed acoustically - on porches, in the living room or by the fireplace. And for this, there is a reason. The intimate setting is a key factor. Earlier this year Andrew Combs opened for Justin Townes Earle at a venue in Stockholm. It was a lame and unfocussed appearance, clearly illustrated when half the audience walked away for beer. In the film, however, we see Combs play in a caravan home, where he exhibits strong presence that makes for a heart stopping performance.
Heartworn Highways Revisited asks no questions. In the film, there is no analysis, no in-depth interviews or historical context to speak of. The music stays in focus, and speaks for itself. The authentic environments create a visual poetry that is irresistible to us with a lifelong love relationship with the American South. The perfect subtitle for the production is furthermore delivered in the film by John McCauley: "I can´t tell you why I love country music, but I can assure you that I do.”
The romantic notion of life on the road is reflected when Jonny Fritz presents his plans to move into his garage and put the house out for rent so that he can "go on tour forever and ever." Guy Clark sings "If I could just get off of this LA Freeway, without getting killed or caught," and says that it definitely was neither an allegory nor a euphemism, but exactly how he felt at a specific time. The lyrics were written down with an eye pencil on a hamburger wrapping paper in his hotel room after a particular traumatic journey. The love of alcohol is also a common theme, and the years have not always been kind to those who survived. It is exemplified when Fritz plays a song for David Allen Coe and he asks: "Who wrote that song?" and Fritz replies, "It's your song!”
One who did not make it was Townes Van Zandt, and when he plays Pancho & Lefty, in what I consider is the films centerpiece, it’s like time stops for a moment. There is a darkness looming over him that none of today's artists is even close to. And that is definitely a good thing.
In the first film the gang is gathered at the home of Guy Clark for a Christmas party, but nobody is eating anything. There is drinking, smoking and songs are played around the table. Eyes are restless. In the sequel the musicians are enjoying meatballs at John McCauley’s place, and the laughter and looks are full of warmth and love. So it seems that the evolution of the outlaw scene is heading in the right direction and the future both looks and sounds excellent.
Review by Mans Linden