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“Sometimes, a documentary maker is present at precisely the right moment to capture lightning in a bottle. It happened with essential punk doc The Decline of Western Civilization, it happened with Dylan’s Don’t Look Back and Chet Baker’s Let’s Get Lost, and it happened with 1976’s Heartworn Highways.


The iconic performance documentary saw filmmaker James Szalapski travel to Texas and Tennessee to capture the radical country artists reclaiming the genre via an appreciation for its heritage in folk and bluegrass and a rejection of the mainstream Nashville machine. Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, Steve Young, David Allan Coe, Steve Earle and many others appeared on both screen and soundtrack, where musical highlights include Clark’s brilliant “Desperados Waiting For A Train,” Young’s stirring “Alabama Highways” and Van Zandt’s emotional “Waiting Around To Die.”


The hard living – and hard partying – lifestyles of outlaw country’s figureheads are played out on screen as we visit Van Zandt’s Austin trailer, see Coe play in Tennessee State Prison, join the gang in Nashville’s notorious Wig Wam Tavern and witness a liquor-fueled Christmas at Clark’s house. No wonder the film’s original tagline read: “The best music and the best whiskey come from the same part of the country”.


Outside of a couple festival screenings, the movie remained unreleased for five years after its completion, finally hitting screens in 1981 and finding a cult audience ever since.”

– Light in the Attic 


Featuring songs by Guy Clark, David Alan Coe, Rodney Crowell, Steve Earle, John Hiatt, Gamble Rogers, Townes Van Zandt and Larry Jon Wilson.


“Musically, it’s almost impossible to pick highlights but Guy Clark’s “That Old Time Feeling” is a husky

delight and when Seymour Washington, a friend of Van Zandt’s (born 1896!) hears him sing “Waitin’

‘Round To Die” he can’t prevent teardrops from rolling down his cheeks; neither will you.”

Record Collector 

  • Year
    1976
  • Runtime
    92 minutes
  • Language
    English
  • Country
    United States
  • Director
    James Szalapski
  • Screenwriter
    James Szalapski
  • Producer
    Graham Leader
  • Cast
    With: Peggy Brooks, Guy Clark, David Alan Coe, Rodney Crowell, Charlie Daniels, Steve Earle, Wayne Moss, Gamble Rogers, Glenn Stagner, Townes Van Zandt, Seymour Washington, Larry Jon Wilson, Steve Young
  • Editor
    Phillip Schopper