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New Documentary Highlights The Carter Family's History and Influence

OPB | May 2, 2014 12:35 p.m. | Updated: May 2, 2014 4:02 p.m.

The Winding Stream: The Carters, The Cashes and the Course of Country Music

Beth Harrington is in some ways an unlikely filmmaker to present the history of the Carter family. She says that music of all kinds thrills her, but she’s more of a rock gal — and even plays guitar in the Portland band, the Spiricles.

Still, when she was making her last film, Welcome to the Club, about women and rockabilly, the musicians she interviewed kept mentioning the Carter family as essential influences. So Harrington decided to tell the story of the “First Family of Country.”

She started production on The Winding Stream in earnest in 2003. Her film chronicles the early years of the family — from cross-racial “song-hunting” to border radio to marital trouble — as well as the reach and influence of their musical dynasty. Harrington also talked to the most famous musician who married into the family: Johnny Cash. He died just weeks after the interview.

Here’s a clip from a band in the film — the Carolina Chocolate Drops, from North Carolina.

The Winding Stream premiered at South by Southwest in Austin and its Portland premiere is Saturday night at the Hollywood Theatre.

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