This is the first time I’ve watched not one but two Ken Burns documentaries at once, and I have to say: highly recommended.
Country Music is the newest offering from the king of the slow pan. (We did a Lazy Sunday for it, of course.)
It is great to watch with Hubbo sitting next to me. He is a walking cloud storage facility of song lyrics, songwriters, music history, you name it. But it has taken a while to get through the series because he has been really busy.
My solution: watch Country Music with Hubbo. When Hubbo is not available, watch another Ken Burns documentary.
My choice: The West, the 1996 series directed by Stephen Ives, produced by Ken Burns. (It’s streaming on Netflix.)
The stories are riveting. Peter Coyote is there as narrator. He is brilliant. The images are astonishing—from faded tintypes and daguerrotypes, Ives shows us again and again the faces of people who would never have dreamed that they would be beamed across the globe, a hundred years later.
In short order, Ives takes us deep into the miserable abuse and corruption and greed and genocidal mania that was central to the United States mooching up land from sea to shining sea. Maybe it’s the times we’re experiencing now, but I welcome the opportunity to sit with the legacy of what happened west of the Mississippi, centuries ago. Glory for a few often meant disaster for many others. Those wrongs haven’t been repaired.
This series premiered in 1996. Here’s Roger Ebert’s 2016 piece, ruminating on The West twenty years after its premiere. He writes: “Twenty years on, the series makes for a deeply valuable viewing experience—separating myth from reality, but also interrogating the basis for those myths, whether they be Comanche villains or rough and tumble cattlemen. The so-called ‘geography of hope’ that the frontier offered to a ragtag fledgling nation also proved to be the undoing of an entire indigenous culture, and Burns helps us to piece together the enormity of that. For this reason—and many more—The West remains a worthy and fascinating endeavor.”