Rating: (4 out of 5) Saturday, 10/17/2009, 3:00 PM Feature presentation, $10 at AFI Silver
AMONG A CERTAIN demographic, lesbian folk musician Ferron is legendary, and for anyone who’s not part of that demographic and wants to find out why, Ferron: Girl on a Road will put all questions to rest. Kicking off at the singer/songwriter’s abode on Saturna Island, British Columbia, the documentary opens with this explanation:
”After 25 years of making music and 12 albums, Ferron signed with a major record label. It was a bad fit. Ten years later she’s reuniting her band for a three-concert tour. She’s come home.”
As we quickly learn, Ferron isn’t a bubblegum-pop songstress. She writes rich, often painful songs that reveal a sometimes difficult history and a willingness to expose her feelings in the studio and on the stage. And, as she explains, once she puts these emotions to music, she commits to them.
”I have to stand in front of these songs,” she explains. ”I deliver them up and I’m with them all my life, and the lines, you know. How horrible would it be if you were writing songs that, halfway through your life, all of a sudden you say, ‘I can’t sing this anymore.’ … I’m still singing songs that I wrote when I was 18.”
That commitment to her own truth is evident throughout the documentary, including her memory of a night listening to albums by Joni Mitchell and Dory Previn, when Ferron came to recognize what would become a calling to write songs.
”Both of them couldn’t get to what it was with me, which was that I was a lesbian. And I had that mentality but I didn’t even barely know it yet. … I can remember saying to my mother, ‘I’m going to write my own songs.’ And she said, ‘Well why? There’s a lot of good songs already written.’ You know, it was not very encouraging. But I knew why. Because none of them had me in it.”
The film is likely to broaden the demographic of Ferron’s fan base, although it’s sad to learn, on her Web site, that a scheduled tour this fall has been postponed because of some health issues she’s been having. Despite being sidelined, this film shows us that she’s still and always, as she sings in a soul-wrenching song on her 1994 album ”Driver,” a girl on a road.
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