My entire life, I've grown up positively soaked in the pop culture of the 1960s. After all, when I was born, the decade was just coming to a close, and the pop culture was still fresh. By the time I was in high school, the music was showing up on oldies stations, but because so many of the people making films and television shows were children of the '60s, it was still omnipresent. I'm so familiar with the music of the era that even the stuff I've never actually sought out is still wedged firmly in my consciousness simply because it was ubiquitous.
This year, we're officially a half-century out from 1960, and yet we continue to mine this decade, and it's fair to start asking if there's anything left to say. The new documentary "Troubadours," one of this year's Sundance premieres, looks at the music scene that evolved around the Troubadour in Los Angeles, and in particular, at the work of Carole King and James Taylor, who re-united in 2007 at the club for a series of shows. These two are front and center in the film, and the interviews with them form the spine that the rest of the movie hangs on, but by focusing on the Troubadour, it allows filmmaker Morgan Neville room to look at the folk movement, the rise of the singer/songwriter, Steve Martin, "hoot nights," Troubadour founder Doug Weston, and many more subjects, and the film manages to feel energetic and fresh no matter how well some of this ground has been covered before.
For example, I had no idea freight trains used to run down the middle of Santa Monica Blvd. and Beverly Hills, and that one little digression is an example of how rich and diverse the story is, even if it does keep coming back to the music. Elton John, Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell, David Crosby, Kris Kristofferson, and others show up for interviews, as well as many faces that are less famous but just as significant to the way the "California Music" scene developed. Anyone looking for any dirt on these people or that period will likely be disappointed, as "Troubadours" is obviously a film born of great affection.