SXSW FILM 2015
By Don Simpson | March 24, 2015
Director: Alan Berg
It is quite fitting that Alan Berg’s The Jones Family Will Make a Way had its world premiere at the South by Southwest Film Festival, since the documentary so uniquely captures the power of persuasion that the South by Southwest Music Festival has over the music industry. Bishop Fred Jones and his family have been performing gospel music in their The Mt. Zion Pentecostal Cathedral in Markham, TX for over 30 years. If they were to disappear from gospel music history because their music has never been recorded or documented, the Jones Family Singers would most likely conclude that god would have a justifiable reason for that; but like a modern day retelling of the Parable of the Good Samaritan, an atheist graciously lends a helping hand in delivering their religious music to a significantly larger audience.
Virtually unheard of outside of their East Texas community, the Jones Family Singers fatefully piqued the curiosity of Austin rock critic and gospel aficionado, Michael Corcoran (the aforementioned atheist). From Michael Corcoran’s perspective, the Jones Family Singers represented a living time capsule that allowed him to experience the transformative magic of a long-forgotten world. While it might seem odd that someone with no religious convictions would be so enamored by gospel music, but for Corcoran gospel music is the direct musical ancestor of rock and roll. By experiencing gospel at its most purist, Corcoran can better understand why this music motivated Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis to begin their musical careers.
Taking Corcoran’s lead, The Jones Family is not about religion or spirituality; instead, it is about the forces that need to work together to break into the music industry. Without the “dream team” convergence of Corcoran, an influential manager (David Lobel), a well-respected producer (Spoon’s Jim Eno), and a SXSW showcase — not to mention the band’s unwavering conviction — the Jones Family Singers would have remained undiscovered. Talent competition television series such as American Idol seem to have made most people forget what it takes for musicians (and artists in general) to achieve success. Sure, getting selected to perform on a prime time television series is one way; but the majority of musicians gain notoriety because of their hard work and sacrifices as well as the connections that they make along the way. One could also argue that music industry showcases such as SXSW and CMJ will continue to breed and foster more (and more legitimate) musical talent than American Idol and all of its knockoffs combined.