Check Out the Upcoming CMA Fest/Fan Fair Documentary…and More

Check Out the “CMA Fest: 50 Years of Fan Fair” Documentary and More

Binge these noteworthy documentaries and online offerings.

For its 50th Anniversary, the Country Music Association debuted “CMA Fest: 50 Years of Fan Fair,” a documentary featuring a ton of artists including Wynonna, Bill Anderson, Dolly Parton, Vince Gill, Patty Loveless, Reba McEntire, Tricia Yearwood, Luke Bryan, Luke Combs, BRELAND, Carly Pearce and Brothers Osborne. For the first 30 years of its history, CMA Fest was known as Fan Fair, hence the title.

It’s nostalgic for me because around 1986, a friend and I sweat buckets in a metal building at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds as co-operators of the fan booth for Opry legend Connie Smith. More than anything, that week grew our love for Miss Connie and increased our appreciation of those diehard working-class fans who saved all year for their annual pilgrimage to Nashville. You can watch the trailer here for this 75-minute documentary.

Here are some additional multimedia ways you grow your appreciation of Nashville and music-making.

It All Begins With A Song

"It All Begins with a Song" title of documentary on Nashville songwriters

Features interviews with Nashville-based writers across genres. It’s must-see TV for aspiring songwriters and those captivated by the creative process of bringing music to life. Watch the trailer here.

Among those who appear: Garth Brooks, Kings of Leon, Keb’ Mo’, Vince Gill, Ben Folds, Brandy Clark, Desmond Child, Gordon Kennedy, Jeffrey Steele, Garth Brooks, Mac McAnally, and Shane McAnally. I highly recommend it.

The documentary is free for Amazon Prime members or you can try this link to the Documentary Channel’s YouTube Channel.

When visiting Nashville, here’s a great resource for live songwriter showcases.

"Country Music: A Film by Ken Burns" PBS documentary series

I could be nitpicky about a few stunning omissions in this 8-part series but it is a tremendously satisfying documentary which includes interviews with now-departed legends, jaw-dropping archival discoveries and smile-inducing stories. Interviewees include Marty Stuart, Vince Gill, Garth Brooks, Loretta Lynn, Mel Tillis, Merle Haggard and dozens more. Available through PBS, Amazon and possibly DVDs at your local library.

Great documentary on Nashville's Bluebird Cafe

It’s astonishing that this little cafe’ in a lowly strip mall in suburban Green Hills would launch careers and introduce songs beloved around the world. It’s where Garth Brooks heard “The Dance” and Taylor Swift made her professional debut. Interviewees include Faith Hill, Maren Morris, Kathy Mattea, Jason Isbell, Vince Gill, Kasey Musgraves, and Kathy Mattea. Rent via AppleTV, Vudu, Microsoft, Google Play or iTunes.

Jelly Roll on CMA Fest: 50 Years of Fan Fair documentary

Debuting May 30 on Hulu, Jelly Roll’s “Save Me” documentary gives a warts-and-all accounting of his unlikely rise to stardom with his mix of country, rap and rock. From repeat juvenile offender to hitmaker, it’s the kind of story that shows you it is indeed possible to beat the odds. (The link will take you to the trailer.)

If you’re looking for live music in Nashville that is not exclusively country, consider my recommendations.

Nashville-Based Audio Series

Radio SoBro

Hear the latest streams from emerging (and sometimes successful) songwriters from their base just south of Broadway. You never know what you might discover.

Acme Radio Live

Broadcasting from Acme Feed and Seed (now transformed into a restaurant/bar on the corner of Broadway and 1st Avenue, S.), this audio outlet breaks new artists with original material and pays tribute to songs of the past. Personally I love that they honor the building’s history where you could have your dog flea-dipped or buy a crate of baby chicks–while changing with the times. You’ll also find some video clips at the website.

Finally Friday

Like Americana? Tune for this live radio broadcast from 3rd and Lindsley, one of Nashville’s premier music venues. Each two-hour show brings together four Americana artists in a freewheeling showcase with a live audience. Think NPR’s “Tiny Desk Concert” with a whole herd of appreciative fans.

Music Row Happy Hour with Buzz Brainard

Got SiriusXM Radio? You’re good to go for this live show coming to you from Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville on Lower Broadway (not Music Row). Folks line up hours before the 3pm sign-on never knowing what recording artists might drop by.