MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A flower in a field of manure, the universal expression of shared experiences, a family of musicians and fans alike; those are just a few of the ways the creators of Country Music describe the soon-to-be-released eight-part miniseries from American historian Ken Burns and his team.
“The great thing about country music is that it is all about elemental human emotions and feelings and stories that all of us experience — the joy of birth, the sadness of death, falling in love, trying to stay in love, losing love, being lonely, seeking redemption,” Burns said in an interview on MetroNews “Talkline” with Hoppy Kercheval. “Nobody within the sound of my voice and nobody anywhere, regardless of those distinctions that we impose on them, haven’t felt these things.”
Burns and his team, which includes West Virginia native and country musician Kathy Mattea, will debut select portions of the series in Morgantown this week, at a Tuesday showing at the WVU Creative Arts Center.
Mattea, along with fellow West Virginian Charlie McCoy, will perform ahead of the screening.
“She’s been such a great help to us,” Burns said. “She’s such a great person. Whatever is in the water, whatever is in the hollers, she’s just a good egg. And we love her and have known her for years and years. We can’t wait to, not share her with you, but we’re glad you lend her to us so that our film is that much richer because we have a West Virginian, Kathy Mattea, in our film.”
The screening will select portions of the series that focus on West Virginia’s own contributions to country music, producer Dayton Duncan told WAJR’s “Morgantown Weekend” last week.
“Country music is an extended family of people,” he said, “whether you are talking about the artists or the people who love the music. I learned that in studying the history of country music and sort of in the abstract, but also in the very personal terms particularly with (Kathy) and (her husband) John (Mattea).”
The eight-part, more than 16 hour series is expected to touch on some familiar tunes that many will be familiar with, while also exploring so much of country music that hasn’t entered the mainstream.
“That’s what we loved exploring and hope that people will not only be re-introduced to people they might already know, but be introduced to a people and music they’ve never heard of,” Duncan said.
A painstaking process, Burns said country music fans shouldn’t offended if the film version of their beloved genre doesn’t touch on every single one of their favorite artists or songs.
“It’s why we take eight years to do a film like this,” Burns said. “We want to make sure that those decisions are not done sort of arbitrarily.”
Doors open at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 16 for the screening.