History Channel is serving up some frontier history starting March 7, with a miniseries entitled Men Who Built America: Frontiersmen. Pretty much the usual suspects — Boone, Crockett, Carson. I’d really love to see Simon Kenton, Blue Jacket, Jack Hayes, etc. get their day. In fact, I’d be happy to serve as a consultant on such a doco. Maybe call it Warriors of the Wildlands: True Tales of the Frontier Partisans. Or something like that.
Nonetheless, I will watch. Of course I will.
In April of 1775, just weeks before the American Revolution begins, a group of pioneers launch their own revolution, defying a king to establish a permanent settlement on the frontier.
Before them lies a territory of 2.5 million square miles of vast, raw, untamed land stretching from the Appalachian Mountains to the Pacific Ocean that will one day forge a new nation. The Men Who Built America: Frontiersmen spans a formative period of history featuring the first 75 volatile years of the United States — from the Revolution through the California Gold Rush — where Daniel Boone, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, John Frémont, Davy Crockett and Andrew Jackson set forth across uncharted land with determination and self-reliance.
The four-part, eight-hour program will feature dramatizations of significant moments in American history and interviews with experts and survivalists.
• Dave Alvin, the voice in my head, is coming out with a new CD with Jimmie Dale Gilmore — From Downey to Lubbock. It’s anchored around a duet that is right in the middle of the Frontier Partisans x-ring.
Two Americana music veterans whose paths have crossed for nearly half a century — even before they knew one another — are teaming up for their first recording as a duo, a project that brings Southern California native Dave Alvin together with esteemed West Texas singer-songwriter Jimmie Dale Gilmore.
The pair recently joined forces to record the forthcoming album “Downey to Lubbock,” the title referring to their hometowns. The Times is premiering one of the new collection’s original songs, “Billy the Kid and Geronimo,” about an imagined meeting between the two 19th century outlaws whose lives became the stuff of legend in the American West.
“I thought Jimmie and I needed something to sing together,” Alvin, 62, said in an interview shortly after getting home from a recent round of tour dates with Gilmore, who is a decade older. “I’d had the song in pieces. Usually when I write the semi-historical mythical songs, there’s at least five other verses laying around — like old folks songs themselves.
“I write in a flurry, then go back and say, ‘We don’t need this, we don’t need that, we don’t need to know what color his socks were,” he said with a laugh. “I like it — of course, it’s historically inaccurate because it never happened. … I like dialogues about archetypes and guilt and all that.”
Alvin tackles the vocals for the lines expressing the imagined views of Billy the Kid, a.k.a. William Bonney a.k.a. William Henry McCarty Jr., the young gunslinger infamous for killing 21 people and who was famously shot to death at age 21 by Sheriff Pat Garrett.
Gilmore, who is part Native American, voices the thoughts Alvin wrote for Geronimo, the Chiricahua Apache chief who was one of the last Native American leaders to abandon his resistance against white colonization of the American Southwest…
• Taylor Sheridan continues his exploration of the darkness of the contemporary American West in a new series on Paramount TV. The writer of Hell or High Water, Sicario, and Wind River penned the series, titled Yellowstone, which stars Kevin Costner and premiers in June.
Shot in Utah and Montana, Yellowstone follows John Dutton, who controls the largest contiguous ranch in the United States, under constant attack by those it borders — land developers, an Indian reservation, and America’s first National Park. It is an intense study of a violent world far from media scrutiny — where land grabs make developers billions, and politicians are bought and sold by the world’s largest oil and lumber corporations. Where drinking water poisoned by fracking wells and unsolved murders are not news: they are a consequence of living in the new frontier. It is the best and worst of America seen through the eyes of a family that represents both.
• Production is underway on Season 4 of Outlander. The Frasers have shipwrecked on the Georgia coast and will end up in the North Carolina backcountry, where they will play out that cultural connection between the Highlanders and the native peoples. Bear hunts. Regulators. Medical crises. Can’t wait.
Behind the scenes shots:
• One of the most storied raids in history will be on screen this month. 7 Days in Entebbe recounts an Israeli commando raid to rescue hostages taken in a terrorist hijacking in 1976. Directed by Jose Padilla of Narcos fame. I will be seeking this out, along with Red Sparrow.