The late Bobby "Blue" Bland gives Lil' P-Nut singing lessons.
Memphis’ music roots run deep. From blues to soul and rock and roll, the city on the river has been home to the creation of some of the world’s most important and influential music. Magic has happened in Memphis recording studios like Stax and Royal, and legendary artists who’ve created and contributed to some of the most soulful, emotionally stirring, and enduring tunes have done so from right here in our city.
Take Me to the River, a documentary that celebrates the musical influence of Memphis in the face of discrimination and segregation, was released for screenings in 2014 and garnered critical acclaim at various film festivals over the last two years. Just yesterday, the film was added to Netflix’s streaming options.
The documentary, produced by Martin Shore, Jerry Harrison, Cody Dickinson, Lawrence "Boo" Mitchell, and Dan Sameha, brings together music legends the likes of Bobby “Blue” Bland, William Bell, and Mavis Staples with a younger generation of Memphis recording artists, including the North Mississippi Allstars, Lil’ P-Nut, and Yo Gotti. The result is a series of awe-inspiring (and adorable, in the case of Lil’ P-Nut) collaborations combining Memphis music past and present, with the elders acting as mentors through much of the process.
After recording an energetic version of “Push and Pull” together, rapper Frayser Boy tells Bobby Rush that had been his first time working with a live band. “With rap sessions, it’s a whole lot different,” he says. Rush replies with a comment about today’s music being created with computers and sampling. “If we keep sampling, we’ll run out of things to sample,” Rush says. “There’s nobody creating new things so you’ll have something to sample from.”
The documentary shows William Bell talk about the origination of the chorus lyric “Hold on, I’m comin” from the famous Sam and Dave track. Guitarist Charles “Skip” Pitts teaches a student from the Stax Music Academy how to play “I Forgot to Be Your Lover” in less than 30 minutes. Bobby “Blue” Bland gives Lil’ P-Nut singing lessons. And Charlie Musselwhite jams with The City Champs.
With a mix of Memphis music history and a look at our new generation of artists, Take Me to the River is a moving presentation. (Some of the beloved artists featured in this documentary have passed away since filming.) Take my advice and add it to your Netflix queue today.
Take Me to the River is also available for purchase on DVD and Blu-ray. More than 75 percent of the profits received from the film will go toward The Soulsville Foundation, which operates the Stax Music Academy, the Soulsville Charter School, and the Stax Museum of American Soul Music.
An accompanying album of songs recorded during the creation of the documentary is also available for purchase (CD or digital download) and includes the following tracks:
1. "Ain't No Sunshine" [feat. Yo Gotti] by Bobby "Blue" Bland
2. "Wish I Had Answered" [feat. North Mississippi Allstars] by Mavis Staples
3. "They Wanna Be Like Me" [feat. MJG] by The Bar-Kays
4. "Push and Pull" [feat. Frayser Boy] by Bobby Rush
5. "Supposed To Be" [feat. Al Kapone] by Booker T and North Mississippi Allstars
6. "Trying To Live My Life Without You" [feat. P-Nut] by Otis Clay
7. "I've Been Buked" by Mavis Staples and North Mississippi Allstars
8. "I Forgot To Be Your Lover" [feat. Snoop Dogg] by Stax Music Academy and William Bell
9. "If I Should Have Bad Luck" by Charlie Musselwhite and The City Champs
10. "Knock On Wood" by Stax Music Academy and William Bell
11. "Hen Pecked" [feat. Frayser Boy] by Bobby Rush
12. "Walk Away" by Hi Rhythm Section and Terrence Howard
Watch the trailer here:
And if you just can't wait to see the Otis Clay/Lil' P-Nut collaboration, watch it now: