Take Me to the River New Orleans

Take Me to the River New Orleans

2022, NR, 2022 min. Directed by Martin Shore. Narrated by John Goodman.

REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., May 20, 2022

In 2014, musician and director Martin Shore went inside a recording studio to capture multiple generations of Memphis artists in collaboration. He walked out with Take Me to the River, a unique lens on a living history. A double album accompanied the film’s release and spawned live performances, too; now Shore’s taken the concept on the road – or rather, down the Mississippi River – to duplicate the endeavor in New Orleans for Take Me to the River New Orleans, a rousing survey of the city’s diverse musical traditions.

The film opens with a straightforward pairing – veteran soul singer Irma Thomas and protégé Ledisi, a Grammy Award-winning powerhouse belter who’s nonetheless (and quite movingly) starstruck. A more left-of-field session teams up feminist singer-songwriter Ani DiFranco with blues-funk guitarist Walter “Wolfman” Washington and Cajun band Lost Bayou Ramblers for a Creole French banger. Other sessions sample jazz, bounce, R&B, rap, percussion, and brass, featuring performances by Dr. John, Big Freedia, Snoop Dogg, PJ Morton, G-Eazy, Galactic, Mannie Fresh, Davell Crawford, 5th Ward Weebie, and the entire Neville Brothers cohort in their last recording together.

That piling-on of talent, from different generations and musical genres, is what makes Take Me to the River such an exhilarating project, and it provides an ideal jumping-off point for tiny dives into Crescent City history, including second line culture – the more free-form, spirited part of a brass band parade – and the influence of enslaved Africans and Native Americans on Mardi Gras traditions.

These sections, narrated by NOLA resident John Goodman, are educational but never draggy, symbiotically working with the recording session footage to illustrate the history being discussed. But the film’s greatest strength is its unabashed sentimentality. The look on these artists’ faces – their obvious pleasure in being in the room with their heroes, making great music? It’s not just good on the ears; it’s good for the heart.

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More Martin Shore Films
Take Me to the River
Memphis and Stax Records music artists from an earlier era mentor a younger generation in this ambient documentary.

Steve Davis, Sept. 26, 2014

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Take Me to the River New Orleans, Martin Shore

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