in 1975, Heartworn Highways is
a documentary that was originally aimed at a theatre audience.
The movie follows the lives of a group of up-and-coming
singer/songwriters. The names to conjure with are Guy
Clark, Townes Van Zandt,
David Allan Coe and Rodney
Crowell. Steve Young
is here as is Charlie Daniels Band.
A few names that are not as well known today include Larry
Jon Wilson, Gamble Rogers
and Barefoot Jerry.
According to the films director James Szalapski he was
introduced to the performers by "Skinny Dennis"
(Dennis Sanchez) a stand-up bass player from around L.A.
Szalapski explains; "Dennis had Marfan's Syndrome. It's
a birth defect. Lincoln had it. And it causes your body to
get very bony and elongated. Dennis was six foot eleven and
weighed 135 pounds that's why they called him Skinny
Dennis." Eventually Dennis died of heart failure at the
age of twenty-nine. The movie is dedicated to "Skinny
The opening scene has Guy Clark playing
his famous number "L.A. Freeway",
before moving on to the studio scene of Larry
Jon Wilson making his recording of "Oh
Hoopee River Bottomland". We are taken on a
grand tour of Townes Van Zandt's
back yard and we join David Allen Coe
as he drives us on his tour bus to a gig at a Tennessee
State Prison. Coe also treats us to two of my favourite
numbers of his. "Old Man Tell Me"
and "The River".
There are some great numbers to be found here with Guy
Clark and Steve Young.
Some fantastic rare footage of some of today's popular
singer/songwriters can be seen, such as Rodney
Crowell and Steve Earle
playing on the front porch steps (without recording
contracts at that time). We see Guy
Clark repairing a guitar and go backstage with the Charlie
The front cover pictures Townes
Van Zandt sitting on the front porch with a 79
year-old black man by the name of Seymour Washington who was
nicknamed the walking blacksmith. Seymour says that he
didn't have transport but caught the bus to visit the
ranches where he tended to the horses needs.
There are many extras on the DVD with a wonderful
rendition by Townes Van Zandt
of his famed song "Pancho and
Lefty". Heartworn Highways
comes with a 22-page booklet containing an interview
with James Szalapski talking about the project, the full
story of "Skinny Dennis" and introductions by
Phillip Schopper (editor/assistant director) and Graham
The most amusing segment has to be the graphic
introduction that Gamble Rogers
gives to the performance of his song "The
Old Black Label Blues", which is accompanied by
footage of the Jack Daniels distillery in Lynchburg,
Tennessee where that fine sourmash sipping whiskey if
produced. We are also taken to the Wigwam Tavern in downtown
Nashville to sit and sip a little Tennessee whisky and enjoy
some old-time pickin' and grinnin'.
The whole movie of 150 minutes finally comes to an end
with a jam session at Guy Clark's house
on Christmas Eve 1975 and the dulcet tones of a host of the
top country singer/songwriters singing along to the Yuletide
Carol "Silent Night".
Heartworn Highways is a
heart-warming look back at the emerging alternative country
music scene from a quarter of a century ago and an exemplary
collection of some of the best and legendary
singer/songwriters of our time. Along with the main feature
are several extras including the unflickering genius poet
laureate of country music, Townes Van
Zandt giving us a simple rendition of "Pancho
& Lefty" and Guy Clark
with "Desperadoes Waiting For A
Train". An absolutely sensational DVD that will
give hours of repeated pleasure!!!