Some of the most revered names in soul, blues, and gospel (Otis Clay, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Hubert Sumlin, Charlie Musselwhite, Mavis Staples) convene in Memphis to record duets with younger artists and reminisce about the glory days of Stax Records and Hi Records, the town’s preeminent R&B labels. The premise for this documentary couldn’t be more stilted, and some of the matchups are enough to make you wince (like Clay’s remake of “Tryin’ to Live My Life Without You,” featuring pint-size rapper Lil P-Nut). But there are a few striking intergenerational moments: in one scene Staples and the North Mississippi Allstars gather over a laptop to decipher the arrangement of “Wish I Had Answered,” a song she recorded when she was 22. This has been sitting on the shelf for years, during which time many of the elderly participants died; their passing gives the project a historical value it never manages to earn for itself. Martin Shore directed.
Take Me to the River
PG • 1 hour 40 min • 2014