Film Review: Muscle Shoals (2013)

on Monday, October 28, 2013
'Muscle Shoals' (UK Release: 25 Oct '13) // Words: Saam Das

Alabama's Muscle Shoals is one of the most influential areas in the world - an area whose rich musical heritage is immediately intriguing. From the likes of 'Brown Sugar' to 'Mustang Sally', by way of 'Tell Mama', a visit to Muscle Shoals almost guaranteed a hit. Greg Camilier brings together archive footage and voxpops with an array of musicians to deliver a vivid portrait and tribute.

The documentary uses Rick Hall as its central character, the founder of FAME studios. Hall is perhaps the driving force behind the "Muscle Shoals sound" that saw everyone from the likes of Aretha Franklin to The Rolling Stones flock to Alabama. Indeed, the house band at FAME, The Swampers would leave after many years of success to set up their own studio - Muscle Shoals Sound.

'Muscle Shoals' features the likes of Mick Jagger, Alicia Keys, and Bono all offering their take on the magic behind the area. The narrative certainly seems to boil down to the expertise of Rick Hall and The Swampers, while suggesting an arguably negative influence from record labels and the wider music industry.

Much like the Paul Simon doc 'Under African Skies', 'Muscle Shoals' also highlights a level of racial harmony and equality rare for its setting - in this case, largely black singers supported by the caucasian trio of The Swampers. Camilier joyfully reflects on the context and success of Muscle Shoals, while placing a welcome focus on the relatively unheralded music lovers at its heart.


'Muscle Shoals' premiered in the UK at Sundance London 2013. The film is in selected UK cinemas now, through Dogwoof.

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