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“For Love and Country” by Amazon Music and Black Country Artists

Amazon Music’s new documentary, “For Love and Country,” debuts on the streaming platform on April 7.

Nearly two years have passed since Mickey Guyton released “Black Like Me,” a single that — for the first time, arguably ever — placed the outspoken honesty of civil rights, social justice and fairness restorative in the mainstream of country music.

Ghanaian-American director and photographer Joshua Kissi’s 100-minute Amazon Music film highlights moments before 2020 and provides context for the evolution of country music.

“The June 2020 racial awakening changed the world,” Kissi told The Tennessean ahead of the red carpet premiere of her documentary at the Country Music Hall of Fame.

“Telling the unique truths and experiences of black artists in a space impacted by this change was more important than the documentary – I was trying to create a point of reference for how we move on from here.

Kissi is a rapidly gaining global acclaim, known for using a nuanced perspective to chronicle the inspiring yet underrepresented work of African Americans, Africans, and those residing in African Diaspora countries.

Revise the story

Director Joshua Kissi of Amazon Music's latest documentary,

One of the documentary’s victories is to begin the process of getting artists to unpack how to be black and country, simultaneously, with defiant pride in both.

“In telling this story, it was imperative for us to amplify the personal stories of these wonderfully diverse country artists, for within them lie the stories of black contributions to the genre,” said Raymond Roker, Global Editorial Manager of ‘Amazon Music.

“They are also universal stories of acceptance, of being welcome into spaces we choose to occupy despite how the door might be opened to us at first, and how stories and history can become marginalized with the weather.”

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – APRIL 04: Reyna Roberts attends the Amazon Music For Love & Country documentary premiere at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum on April 04, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Amazon Music)

Contributions from New York Times journalist and bestselling author Andrea Williams, Davidson Country Criminal Court clerk and former Vice Mayor Howard Gentry, academic and author Amanda Marie Martínez, and rapper Mike Floss help with the storytelling. of the documentary.

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An incredible historical moment

Floss driving a Cadillac convertible down Lower Broadway while discussing how African Americans gaining and expanding their empowerment in the music industry can create fundamental systemic change is a jaw-dropping moment. However, when Williams discusses the correlation between slavery and black labor in country and American music while standing on a former plantation, the seriousness of the documentary increases dramatically.

Regarding the plantation registration process, Kissi noted a fascinating addendum.

“This space was not originally intended as a plantation,” he revealed. “We needed a house with lots of land. So at first when I found out it was a plantation, I was upset.”

“However, I realized then that if you’re shooting in Tennessee and looking for a house with a lot of land, the likelihood of it being an old plantation is pretty high.”

Continuing, he offers that the current owner of the former plantation was happy that, as he put it, “a place that once housed slaves could have its history rewritten in the way (a team of mostly black people) judged appropriate.

Even deeper regarding this incredible moment, Kissi said, “For many of us, it was the first time we set foot in a place like this. So before we shoot anything, I emotionally checked in with everyone to note the importance of the story we were about to tell about the land we were on. We took breaks where people were crying because of the grief of people attached to this land.

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - APRIL 04: (L-R) Willie Jones, BRELAND, Amythyst Kiah and Blanco Brown speak onstage during the premiere of the Amazon Music documentary For Love & Country at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum on April 04, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Amazon Music)

It’s also intriguing in the documentary how it’s roughly divided between established and emerging black artists in country music, Americana, and related genres of the past two decades. So, come to the documentary to hear the views of award-winning artists like Jimmie Allen and Mickey Guyton, headliners BRELAND and Blanco Brown, and stars of the future, including Shy Carter, Willie Jones, Amythyst Kiah, Reyna Roberts and Britney Spencer. .

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However, on viewing, more experienced performers: Black Country Music Association co-founder Frankie and Grammy nominees Allison Russell and Valerie June.

“There are so many hidden gems of talent — from our ancestors to the present day — that we honor now,” June explained. “Also, thanks to documentaries like these and how educational they are, we no longer have to explain the music we make to people because of the color of our skin. Yes, there’s still work to do, but I’m popping confetti and champers (champagne) right now.”

June is from Memphis with two decades of experience. Naturally, she can describe what mundane moments in the movement’s past looked like compared to the present and future predicted by Kissi’s documentary.

Memphis-based Americana artist Valerie June is spotlighted in Amazon Music's latest documentary,

The future reflects the past

She recalled a moment when a busker in a red cowgirl boot stood near “cotton fields as far as the eye could see” at the King Biscuit Blues Festival in Helena, Arkansas. “It was on the corner of highways 49 and 61 that Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil in exchange for the blues,” she added. His description is filled with a bittersweet weariness.

“People all over the world were asking me what kind of music I sang,” she said. “They would say, ‘You’re wearing country shoes, so it must be country, but your music also sounds hillbilly, bluesy, gospel and folk. I would say, ‘(my music) is what you want it to do. But for me, it’s “organic roots moonshine music”, because you have to approach what I do with an open, whimsical, imaginative and magical state of mind.

“However, now the music that I had to name a crazy name for people to pay attention to doesn’t involve people asking so many questions.”

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – APRIL 04: Brittney Spencer attends the Amazon Music For Love & Country documentary premiere at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum on April 04, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Amazon Music)

Kissi said the documentary chronicles a key moment at a necessary stage in a larger movement. “You can only put a band-aid on something for so long,” he added.

So even though Kissi thinks it’s a moment of healing, it’s also a moment of progression.

Says Kissi: “I want everyone to walk away after watching this to feel like they have a visible and important place in the present and future of country music.”