Man in the Sand documents the fascinating efforts of Billy Bragg to give tune to previously unrecorded Woody Guthrie lyrics. Along the way, he picks up sometimes uneasy collaborators Wilco. Guthrie's daughter, Nora Guthrie, is the chief narrator. She and Bragg show an unmatched admiration and respect for the life and times of the legendary folk singer. The documentary captures Bragg revisiting Guthrie's haunts and friends; in recording sessions; giving live performances, with and without Wilco, of material that would later be released on Mermaid Avenue (Vols. 1 and 2); and going about his daily life and business activities. At times, the film has the feel of an archival series of interviews with Guthrie friends and family. At other times, it feels like a collection of promotional music videos, in part due to its gorgeously photographed recording sessions and performances. Filmed sessions for Bragg's adaptation of "Ingrid Bergman" and Wilco's take on "Another Man's Done Gone" are particularly sublime. Fans of Guthrie, Bragg, or Wilco will be captivated by the film's sights, sounds, and emotional honesty. The DVD edition is smart to include, in addition to a Scene Access menu, a Song Access menu that allows for immediate playback of the perfectly raw musical performances that pepper the film. Five audio-only Bragg demos round out the wonderful package. Man in the Sand is a potent historical document filled to the top with amazing music.
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