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Take Me to the River

May 31, 2018

If you want a straight-up, studio-jam experience of the legendary Memphis music scene, this DVD will not disappoint you and will leave you wanting more and more and more...

In the movie Only Lovers Left Alive, Tilda Swinton plays a vampire who is out cruising at night in Detroit with her husband, also a vampire. He offers her a tour of the old Motown studios and she declines, stating, “I’m more of a STAX girl myself.”

And no wonder. The STAX  musicians in this film—William Bell, Bobby Blue Bland, Mavis Staples, the North Mississippi All Stars, to name just a few—make it clear how and why the Memphis Blues and the STAX label could stand up to Motown, letting R&B, Funk, and Delta Blues come of age in a time of segregation and struggle.

Loaded with stars who exhibit the joy of playing with one another, this film documents some of the rich history of the Memphis music scene during the ‘50s, ‘60s and 70s. The music coming out of Memphis during those years stood in sharp contrast to the slick and glossy turnout of Motown. It was slow and low and down-home. It was Al Green instead of Marvin Gaye; Mavis Staples instead of Diana Ross.

Sadly, the Memphis music scene declined—readily and steadily—after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. This film, however, brings together the best of the surviving artists for some studio time and reminiscences, and there’s not a performance by any of the artists that is not top-grade and a perfect expression of the soul and love that these artists put into their music. Several of the sessions start from scratch, and it’s fascinating to watch musicians, who can “feel” one another through the music, bring together a song and really turn it out.

Yeah, if you really want it, this is it.

Yukon Cornelius avatar


Paul Smethers, a former high school English teacher, is an Associate with the Adult Services Team at Main. His special interests are poetry, ghost stories, and the French Bourbon dynasty.


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