Heartworn Highways, the fabled, previously hard-to-find 1975 film, has been re-edited, color corrected and re-mastered for its DVD release by England’s Catfish Entertainment. With the addition of over an hour’s worth of previously unseen footage, what was once an excellent film is now an essential DVD for Americana fans.
By 1975, a loose confederation of longhaired musicians had left Texas and invaded Nashville. They attended each other’s gigs and picked together in each other’s homes. Everything they did was focused on the music and the eternal search for a song.
Originally shot in Austin and Nashville, the film offers a rare look at what was then a fringe element of country music made by people who have since become songwriting icons. Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, Rodney Crowell, Steve Young and a 19-year-old Steve Earle all feature prominently. The footage varies from Clark repairing frets on a guitar to Van Zandt fooling around on his farm and then bringing tears to Uncle Seymour’s eyes as he plays “Waiting Around To Die” in his kitchen. Eschewing narration, the director chose instead to keep the scenes as organic as possible, letting the music do all the evocation.
The varied scenes—the Christmas Eve picking party at Guy and Suzanna Clark’s house, the new footage of John Hiatt (with hair!) at legendary photographer and closet dobro player Jim McGuire’s house, Charlie Daniels playing in a school gymnasium, the performance by the outrageous David Allan Coe at the Tennessee State Prison, studio footage of Barefoot Jerry and Georgian Larry Jon Wilson—all combine to paint a picture of music that possessed a soul and vibrancy missing from much of Nashville’s current output.
Heartworn Highways is an intimate look back at a more innocent time in country music; it’s a film no true country music fan can afford to miss.