Rockabilly singer/guitarist/songwriter Jerry McGill recorded for the legendary Sun Records and was one of the shadow members of the Outlaw Country movement. He was also a bank robber, a burglary, a con man and drug addict, along with being a fugitive on the run from the FBI.
McGill, who died in 2013, is the subject of the absorbing car wreck-on-film documentary Very Extremely Dangerous. Irish director Paul Duane tracked down the musician, a shadow of himself, bouncing between his old girlfriend from the ‘60s, his best friend and various musicians from Alabama to Florida. The 69-year-old was in rough shape, battling cancer and still nursing a viscous temper (there is a scene that opens and closes the documentary, where Duane is in the back seat of a car barreling down the highway as McGill and his girlfriend Janice start to come to blows over an argument).
The film catches McGill trying to mount an unsuccessful comeback, recording and playing the occasional small venue, but his voice is shot at this point and decades of living hard have left him in rough shape. Though a pretty unsympathetic character, the movie is a fascinating look at wasted talent. Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson all managed to carry their talent from generation to generation, while McGill let his flame out thanks to plenty of drugs, a violent temper and a slew of bad decisions. Surprisingly intimate and captivating, Duane manages to give and honest look at the singer’s life without being exploitive.
The DVD is accompanied by a CD featuring McGill’s lost album and a film score including contributions from Ry Cooder, Waylon Jennings, Alex Chilton and others.
Very Extremely Dangerous/1 DVD and 1 CD/Fat Possum Records/2014