Take Me to the River Directed by Martin Shore
Cast: Terrence Howard, Mavis Staples, William Bell, Snoop Dogg, Otis Clay, Lil P-Nut, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Booker T. Jones, Yo Gotti, Frayser Boy
Directed by Martin Shore, Take Me to the River is a documentary celebrating the inter-generational and inter-racial influence of the Memphis sound in the face of pervasive discrimination and segregation.
Take Me to the River brings multiple generations of Memphis and Mississippi Delta musicians together, documenting the creative process of recording a new album. This historic album, which features artists like Snoop Dogg, Mavis Staples, and Charlie Musselwhite, re-imagine the utopia of racial and generational collaboration of Memphis in its heyday.
Narrated by Terrence Howard, the film features performances from William Bell, Otis Clay, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Yo Gotti, Bobby Rush, Frayser Boy, The North Mississippi All-Stars, and many more.
Director Martin Shore started out as a professional musician, touring with the likes of Bo Diddley and Clarence Clemons. Shore has produced major motion pictures (Snoop Dogg’s Hood of Horrors, Julie Delpy’s The Countess), but Take Me to the River is his directorial debut.
Boo Mitchell, record producer and owner of Royal Studios, is composing the album. His father, the legendary Willie Mitchell, operated Royal Studios in the ’60s and produced and arranged music for artists like Al Green and Buddy Guy.
Similar to recent music documentaries like Muscle Shoals, A Band Called Death, and Sound City, Take Me to the River explores the connection between a place and the music that comes out of it. Much of the film is dedicated to the story of Stax Records and highlights the Stax Museum of American Soul Music and Stax Music Academy.
Overall, Shore’s directorial debut is mostly successful – but Take Me to the River isn’t the all-encompassing history lesson that Muscle Shoals is – and while the music touches the soul, the story of the musicians doesn’t come close to A Band Called Death or 20 Feet from Stardom. Still, for fans of soul music – and contemporary hip-hop – Take Me to the River provides an entertaining yet surface-level look at the Memphis sound and its influence on modern music.
Take Me to the River is making its world premiere as part of the 24 Beats Per Second music documentary series at this year’s South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, TX. In past years, music docs like A Band Called Death, Anvil, The Punk Singer, and Bad Brains: A Band in DC have played at the festival. For more information about this documentary, visit the Take Me to the RiverFacebook page.