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Sundance 2013: History of a studio and a sound in 'Muscle Shoals'

January 26, 2013|By Mark Olsen

PARK CITY, Utah -- Muscle Shoals, Ala., has been at the heart of popular music for decades, a melting pot for the cross-currents of rock-and-roll, R&B, country and soul. Artists such as Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, the Allman Brothers Band, Wilson Pickett, Percy Sledge, Bobbie Gentry and countless others have recorded there. The new documentary "Muscle Shoals," which has its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on Saturday, takes a look at this distinctly American place.

"The story sort of found us as much as we found it," said director Greg Camalier in an interview at the L.A. Times studio in Park City earlier this week. Camalier was on a road trip with a friend when they stopped in Muscle Shoals and were immediately taken by both the local flavor and colorful history of the place.

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Rick Hall was the founder of FAME studios, the first recording studio in Muscle Shoals. Though he was reluctant at first to participate in Camalier's project, he eventually changed his mind.

"Of all the hits and great music that came out of Muscle Shoals, nobody had ever done a documentary. Not NBC, CBS, ABC, anybody," said Hall. "So it was past time. I told them it was the best-kept secret in the world." 

The studio lives on today, as contemporary artists such as the Civil Wars, Alabama Shakes, the Black Keys and Drive-By Truckers have all recorded there. The film features a performance by Alicia Keys at the studio of a Bob Dylan song originally recorded there, "Pressing On."

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Follow Mark Olsen on Twitter: @IndieFocus

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