M.A. Littler has a new film project starting, and as much as I like the rest of his work, this looks like something truly special. Here’s the link to the crowdfunding site.
Speaking of Littler, Hard Soil is now available for download and on DVD here.
This is what I wrote — was proud to write — as part of the Nashville Film Festival application for it.
There are more definitions of folk music than there are musicians. And with the exception of maybe punk rock aficionados and Marxists, there’s no larger pool of purists and amateur historians. The battles over authenticity can be as fierce as any sports riot, and only about half as intelligible. It was with that in mind that I came to M.A. Littler’s HARD SOIL, and I’ll admit to being a little scared. For him, and for me.
I should have known better. M.A. Littler is too damn smart to give us something we can just as well get in a Wikipedia entry. He leaves the definitions and the proselytizing to others and instead gives us a group of likeminded musicians and fans coming together to experience songs. Songs about tough living, joy, family, and community. They may not be your songs, and they may not fit your definition of folk, but after watching HARD SOIL, I defy anyone to call them anything else. They mean too much to the people singing them, and to the people listening.
Woody Guthrie famously said that he hates a song that makes you feel like you’re born to lose, that makes fun of you for your bad luck or your hard traveling. I’m with him on that, which is why I don’t listen to much out of Nashville or LA these days. But if you’re the kind who prefers murder ballads over party anthems, who believes that it takes lonesomeness and blood to make good music, there’s a place for you a little further afield. In HARD SOIL, M.A. Littler gives us an exquisite tour of the space where punk rock and country music meet. There ain’t no Nudie suits and there ain’t no tour buses, but there is blind persistence in the regenerative power of art, and the community that arises from it. “The lost can’t bullshit the lost,” one singer says. Amen, brother.