In 2011 a trio of folk music groups put together an old-fashioned music tour. They hopped on a train and traveled to different cities across the southern states. They called it The Railroad Revival Tour. Director Emmett Malloy, who has had experience filming numerous bands like Metallica and The White Stripes, picks up the camera here and takes on the task of telling the story of a few dozen musicians traveling the country performing their special brands of folk music.
The bands included the English-bred Mumford & Sons, American band Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, and finally, the bluegrass folk band from Nashville, Tennessee Old Crow Medicine Show.
Fans of folk and bluegrass will really dig this concert documentary. Malloy doesn't waste any time getting to the point. We're going to follow the group, see how they interact on the train, track their movements from city to city, and best of all, see them performing live in front of throngs of fans.
At times the musicians take time out of their music playing to talk to the camera. They discuss the tour, their friendships with the other bands, and their love for music. Much of the movie is made up of impromptu jam sessions as the bands intermingle and produce ingenious collaborations as the train rumbles on to their next concert destination.
Malloy does a great job at capturing the old-timey feel of the tour even though it happened just last year. Folk and bluegrass seems to be stuck in a time warp anyway, so Malloy's experimental filming techniques work well here. Although there are a few times where he switches so quickly back and forth between film stock, filters, and lenses that it becomes a little annoying. But that's the point. Malloy is producing a concert documentary, trying to capture the feel of the music through his visuals. There's a carefree attitude about the movie. It doesn't follow a rigid playlist of songs they simply must fit in for the fans. Like a train it wanders down the tracks, making different stops. It's refreshing the way it's all put together.
Either you like this type of music or you don't. Mumford & Sons have become pretty big as of late, and you can hear their stuff on local radio stations. The other two bands have their own share of hits on the radio also. It's a concert Blu-ray that's sure to please the fanbases of the respective groups, but could also gain new fans along the way. There isn't much more to say about it. I liked the way Malloy put it together, I liked his laid-back attitude toward the material, and most of all I enjoyed the music. That's about all you can ask from a concert Blu-ray.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This release comes from S2BN Films. They've provided a Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack, which is housed in an eco-friendly Blu-ray keepcase. Inside are six old-timey postcards from some of the different destinations of the tour. The menu provides the ability to jump to any song in the movie with a handy song selection menu that can be accessed from the main menu.
Below you can find the playlist:
Malloy is out to present the tour in an experimental way. His cameras simply follow around the show, but he does so using just about every filming technique that one can imagine. The movie is full of all sorts of images from black and white, to heavy-grain 8mm, to Instagram-looking over-saturated images. At times the visuals have an extremely sharp HD look to them, and other times there is heavy grain presumably from a different film stock. He switches visual styles so much during this presentation that it's hard to judge the 1080p picture. There are even times where scratches and noise have been purposefully added to give the movie that real 35mm projector feel. I'm willing to bet all the noise contained in the presentation was actually a directorial choice and not a result of dirt and grime.
With that said, the visuals do look rather good. Whether it be crystal clear HD or grainy 8mm, the movie has strong visuals. Blacks are always deep. Colors are beautiful whenever the scene allows for colors that is. The shots of the audience feature clear visuals of people jumping up and down to the music. It may be a constantly changing presentation, but that's the point. It looks as the director intended it to look.
I was really captivated by the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. It's a mix that really features the music in all its glory. Whether the bands are playing in front of thousands of screaming fans, or playing for themselves inside the train, the music has great fidelity and clarity. Although, there is a big difference between the two. When they're in the train the music is more centered in the front while at the concerts the music bleeds through to the rear speakers making you feel like you're standing in the audience.
Other ambient sound effects that reach the rear channels include adoring fans cheering for their favorite songs, lively discussions during on-train parties after the concert, and even the rhythmic bum-bum bum-bum as the train travels down the train tracks. LFE never stops. The sub pounds out the bass lines and drum beats as the music crescendos. This is a great mix that fans are sure to love.
I really enjoy this type of music so I connected with Malloy's documentary about a bunch of musicians having the time of their life. If you like good music and a movie that isn't afraid to experiment visually then the 'Big Easy Express' is for you. With its great audio and video I'd recommend it to anyone.