That Thing That Sound
About the Film
There’s an aspect of THAT THING THAT SOUND that instantly drew me towards watching it. The idea that an entire discipline of playing a particular instrument is being lost to time, and the struggle by those that understand that instrument to pass on their knowledge is something that resonates deeply within me.
Directed by Nathan M. Emesron and Kelsey Hammer, the movie revolves around the steel guitar, an instrument generally associated with country music, and because of that generally ignored by the majority of the mainstream music community. It’s an expensive instrument with a high level of difficulty to learn, keeping it mostly in the hands of the white community. This is a story about passing information on to the next generation, and to expand the use of the steel guitar out of the country roots and into broader genres.
This film grabs you and infects you with the subject’s enthusiasm. Every interview with each musician only deepens the appreciation and sense of wonder one can feel for this instrument and its place in the annals of music history (not to mention film and television…Hello! Dukes of Hazard anyone, or the famous 12 MONKEYS song “Sleepwalk” by Paul Buckmaster?
The soundtrack to THAT THING THAT SOUND is truly unique. Recorded in-part in Nashville, the seat of country music at the famous Bomb Shelter by Mike Daly, and other recordings for the documentary by jazz steel guitarist Dave Easley, this movie sounds fantastic.
The cinematography feels mostly handheld and not always even across the length of the movie. The performances look and sound great, but everything feels like they got what they could with some level of speed, opting to capture quantity while sacrificing a measure of quality, losing a cinematic aspect to some of the footage. That’s not to say the film looks bad, just uneven in places.
If anyone told me I’d be enthralled by a documentary about an instrument, particularly one associated with the country music, I would probably be skeptical, but I would absolutely be proven wrong by THAT THING THAT SOUND. Narratively the film grabs you and doesn’t let go until you submit to the steel guitar and the versatility it provides to music.