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September 24, 2013

Movie to See: Muscle Shoals

By Ingrid Skjong | Films

Movie to See: <em>Muscle Shoals</em>
Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

Muscle Shoals, Alabama, a speck of a town in the northwest corner of the state, shoulders the Tennessee River and, though pretty, wouldn’t necessarily be notable except for one thing: its sound. That so-called Muscle Shoals sound—a soulful, down-and-dirty style that is as enigmatic as it is irresistible—fuels Muscle Shoals, a documentary chronicling the town’s musical heritage.

Some of the best-known songs from the ’60s and ’70s were recorded in the area, mostly at the pioneering Fame Studio by its founder, Rick Hall (pictured here with soul singer Clarence Carter). A complicated character who operated with near-legendary tenacity, Hall attracted the likes of Aretha Franklin, the Rolling Stones, Percy Sledge, Wilson Pickett and Bob Seger. (The recording-session anecdotes are priceless.) All were drawn to the Muscle Shoals mystique; Fame’s house band, The Swampers; and the promise of producing revolutionary music.

Keith Richards, Steve Winwood, Gregg Allman, and others weigh in with stories that give new context to songs like “I’ll Take You There” (the Staple Singers), “Respect” (Franklin) and “Brown Sugar” (the Rolling Stones). Music lovers will hang on every word (and note). And while Muscle Shoals tries to unearth why the tiny town had such a pull, it ultimately proves that some things are simply best left a mystery. On demand, on iTunes and in theaters September 27; magpictures.com/muscleshoals.