Cowboy Jack Clement is an iconic Nashville character -- the soul of Nashville, some might say -- who began his career producing for Memphis' Sun Records (he's responsible for Jerry Lee Lewis' "Whole Lot of Shakin' Goin' On") and went on in Nashville to become a producer, songwriter and inspiring best friend for the likes of Johnny Cash, George Jones, Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings, John Prine and more.
He's also turned into a pretty good performer late in life, recording his own heralded album, 2004's Guess Things Happen That Way. Through all these years, he kept cameras running at his home parties and bull sessions, rehearsals and recording sessions. The results, expertly collected and edited here by Grammy-nominated music documentarians Robert Gordon and Morgan Neville, capture Clement and his drop-in friends (including U2's Bono) in relaxed moments where they don't have to put on airs, and it's mesmerizing. But Clement also turns out to be a witty, literary philosopher-king of sorts, and the film's playful investigation of artistic innovation through the ages as seen through his eyes is as thought provoking as it is entertaining. (Steven Rosen) Grade: B+