Armed with a collection of old Transatlantic albums, the Melody Maker and a battered Dansette record player, Billy Connolly charts the story of legendary guitarist Bert Jansch along with a stellar cast of folk and blues musicians.
Raised in Edinburgh Bert Jansch travelled to London in the early 1960's.
He quickly became a pivotal exponent of the new acoustic guitar movement along with the enigmatic Davy Graham.
Bert's early recorded version of Davy Graham's instrumental tune 'Anji', remains a guitar standard today.
His complex, fingerstyle guitar arrangements merged blues and folk into a new music form that quickly drew the attention of his contemporaries and widespread acclaim.
It also stirred the attention of Bob Dylan, Paul Simon and Neil Young who all travelled to London to hear for themselves.
As a young man in the 1940's, Brownie McGhee had set out with Woody Guthrie and the blind harmonica player Sonny Terry to forge a path through prejudice with their music.
Brownie and Sonny's tours crossed from East Coast to West and Brownie was on the road with Woody when the latter first wrote and performed his seminal 'This Land is Your Land'.
Filmed at many of the great folk and blues venues in the UK including:
Then began a remarkable journey to San Francisco, where Bert was re-united with his hero, Brownie McGhee.
In the late 1950's, as a youth, Bert had sat on the floor and watched Brownie play at The Howff in Edinburgh and he was inspired.
Their reunion as musical equals is one of the highlights of the film.
Filmed in Brownie's front room at his home in Oakland, the pair perform 'Don't Pity Me' and 'Parcel Post Blues'.
The version of Brownie's signature tune, 'Walk On' brought the audience to it's feet when the film was premiered to a sell out audience at the Edinburgh International Film Festival.
In addition to many great music performances including highlights with Albert Lee, John Renbourne, and Duck Baker, the film also contains many rare stills, early footage of Davy Graham and the only known surviving footage of American singer songwriter Jackson C Frank.
Acoustic Routes was first screened on BBC 2 Network, and nominated as Best Arts Film by BAFTA Scotland in 1993 - ironically the film was pipped at the post by another documentary edited by Jan.
The film was invited to the Festival dei Popoli in Florence, the Leipzig Documentary Festival and the Sofia Music Film Festival.
'More than a personal portrait, it shows how the shape of acoustic music was changed from the early Black American influences in Scotland to collaborations in London.'
BAFTA. British Academy of Film and Television Arts
'Jansch plays beautiful melancholy guitar in a style that's based on blues. And he sings in an easy melancholy way that makes the hairs on the neck stand on end.'
In the sixties and seventies, when pop music was insane with excitement, the folkies and hippies, the pickers and travellers played acoustic sounds in tiny clubs to dedicated fans for sweeties.
Yet when they made records, they became part of a legend.
This film is about that legend, the nostalgia for excellence, the remembering of songs past, the weathering of lives dedicated to a passion that transcends fashion, fame or fortune.
ANGUS WOLFE MURRAY - Film Critic - The Scotsman
© Leman Productions 2013