Billy Reid Journal: Heartworn Highways at Bonnaroo

Shelly Colvin, our artist liaison, has a long history of being at the forefront of intensely cool musical happenings. Her latest intriguing interaction centers around a revamp of the cult classic film, Heartworn Highways. Here, she sheds some light on the movie’s significance and reports on its recent showing at Bonnaroo, followed by a performance by Shelly and two of her fellow Nashville songwriters. Our friend, the wildly talented photographer David McClister, was on hand to capture the happenings.

Billy Reid’s artist liaison, Shelly Colvin, backstage at Bonnaroo last weekend. Photos by David McClister

Heartworn Highways Revisited director Wayne Price with Fritz and Colvin.

In the last weeks of 1975 and the first few of ‘76, documentary filmmakers James Szalapski and Graham Leader became flies on the wall of a house full of mostly unknown songwriters brilliantly carousing their way into infamy. The result of their time with the likes of Townes Van Zandt, Steve Young, Charlie Daniels, Rodney Crowell, Steve Earle and Guy Clark (for crying out loud) resulted in the woefully-overlooked classic, Heartworn Highways. For many a songwriter, watching that film is akin to reading Genesis.

Forty years later, Leader, the original producer, and Wayne Price, the new director, seeking to find a new generation of heartworn troubadours, stumbled upon a modern band of outsiders living on music’s fringe. Mostly based in Nashville, but not tied to any one region or genre, this community of friends and writers just so happened to be figuratively carrying around a copy of Heartworn Highwaysin their back pockets. John McCauley, Jonny Fritz, Robert Ellis, Justin Townes Earle, Nikki Lane, Bobby Bare, Jr., Josh Hedley, Shovels and Rope, Langhorne Slim, Andrew Combs, and I, all of us skeptical and humbled, agreed to allow Price into our lives, capturing us making our best effort to live up to the legacies of Guy and Townes, all the while experiencing together the joys and sorrows of today’s music business. Chicken-fighting on the shoulders of giants, if you will.

Dubbed Heartown Highways Revisited, this new film has made waves at a slew of recent film festivals, including Newport, Santa Barbara, Nashville, and Asbury Park Music In Film Festival, where it won the award for best documentary. Last weekend, it was screened at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, at the ungodly hour of 10:30 am. Remarkably, hundreds piled into the Cinema Tent to watch the film, participate in a Q&A, and listen to live performances from Bare, Jr., Fritz and me.

Johnny Fritz

Bobby Bare, Jr.

Shelly Colvin.

Bobby Bare Jr., performing

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