Review: ‘The Special’

Performers as diverse as Johnny Cash, Bela Fleck, Charlie Daniels and String Cheese Incident appear in concert footage during "The Special." But the star of the doc dedicated to bluegrass standard "Orange Blossom Special" turns out to be Ervin T. Rouse, the tragic fiddle virtuoso who composed the tune.

Performers as diverse as Johnny Cash, Bela Fleck, Charlie Daniels and String Cheese Incident appear in concert footage during “The Special.” But the star of the doc dedicated to bluegrass standard “Orange Blossom Special” turns out to be Ervin T. Rouse, the tragic fiddle virtuoso who composed the tune. Co-directed by nonfiction vets Bestor Cram and Mike Majoros, slight but diverting PBS-bound pic could post impressive sales as a homevid item at Bluegrass fests and music stores.

Named for the train that once ran down the East Coast to Florida, “Orange Blossom Special” was the relatively obscure Rouse’s claim to fame. During much of his troubled life, he was upstaged by performer Chubby Wise, who claimed (wrongly, according to the doc) that he co-wrote the song. Using interviews and archival material, “The Special” paints a sympathetic portrait of Rouse, who spent his final years as a recluse. On a happier note, pic offers ample proof “Orange Blossom Special” remains immortal as a global favorite, from New Zealand (a performer samples “Hava Nagila” during the classic) to the Grand Ole Opry (bluegrass icon Vassar Clements offering a definitive rendition).

The Special

Production

A Northern Lights Prods. production. Produced by Nestor Cram, Miguelangel Aponte-Rios, Zach Stauffer. Directed by Bestor Cram, Mike Majoros.

Crew

Camera (color, DV), Cram, Miguelangel Aponte-Rios, Michelle Andrews, Andrew Kukura, Jeremy Leach; sound, Richard Bock. Reviewed at Nashville Film Festival, April 19, 2005. Running time: 72 MIN.
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