Muscle Shoals

Muscle Shoals

Directed by: Greg Camalier
102 minutes

Boston Premiere

Legend tells us that the Yuchi tribe called the Tennessee River “the river that sings.” It therefore seems apt that, on its banks in the rural, northern Alabama town of Muscle Shoals, a recording studio became the unlikely site of some of the most iconic recordings of the last 50 years.

Surmounting personal tragedies and poverty, Rick Hall began Fame Studios in the late 1950s. A visionary and skilled engineer, he assembled an in-house rhythm section of local musicians that affectionately became known as “the Swampers.” Their unique style became part of the signature “Muscle Shoals sound” that backed legendary artists such as Percy Sledge, Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Wilson Pickett, and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Reaching across the categories of pop, rock, and country, this tiny town with a big sound prompted acts like the Rolling Stones, Jimmy Cliff, Paul Simon, and many, many more to make pilgrimages.

Through interviews, archival photos, and footage, filmmaker Greg Camalier celebrates Hall’s foresight and explores the tributaries of his influence, conveying his vision and determination to cross existing racial divides to produce Muscle Shoals’ legacy: a sound so distinct that it brought the world to this unassuming place. Interspersed with the indelible standards produced there—including “When a Man Loves a Woman,” “Mustang Sally,” and “I Never Loved a Man (the Way I Love You)”—MUSCLE SHOALS reveals an inspiring tale of a place that became the “hit-recording capital of the world,” churning out more hit records per capita than any other place on earth.

—Nancy Campbell