The Scene

‘Anacostia Delta' Film Chronicles the Guitar-Based ‘DC Sound'

New documentary 'Anacostia Delta' is both a history lesson and a concert

NBC Universal, Inc.

When you think of the D.C. music scene, you probably think of go-go or jazz or even punk rock. But there’s another style of music that also has its roots in D.C.: the Anacostia Delta sound -- and there's a new documentary out that tells the story of this guitar-based sound and the masters who developed it.

The Anacostia of today is much different than the Anacostia of the '50s and '60s, when country music and nightclubs dominated the landscape. Rock 'n' roll was in its early days, and guitarists in D.C. and Prince George's County were developing their own unique sound.

At the forefront of that sound were guitar legends Roy Buchanan and Danny Gatton, who called what they were creating the Anacostia Delta sound.

"It's different kinds of music coming together, soul, jazz and blues, rock 'n' roll and country, bluegrass running together," said renowned bass player John Previti.

Previti has been part of that scene for decades. He recalls it was easier to create a new sound in D.C. rather than places such as Nashville or New York.

"There's something about D.C. where I think you had time to come up with your sound and not feel like you have to struggle," Previti said. "Just having that brilliance and genius [and] have the time to grow and not be pushed around."

It's truly amazing, genre-bending, exciting, infectious kind of music, and I think everybody would enjoy it.

producer Suzanne Brindamour Tolford

"Anacostia Delta" chronicles generations of D.C.-based musicians who contributed to a sound that is still very much alive today.

The movie is the work of a Montgomery County couple who spent more than six years working on it, hoping to introduce a wider audience to this local sound.

"It deserves to be recognized," said "Anacostia Delta" producer Suzanne Brindamour Tolford. "It's truly amazing, genre-bending, exciting, infectious kind of music, and I think everybody would enjoy it."

The film is available to purchase via download or on DVD. The producers hope to enter it in festivals this year and are hoping to have a large-scale premiere once the pandemic allows.

It includes rare footage, as well as interviews with music greats such as Nils Lofgren and Vince Gill, both influenced by the Anacostia Delta sound.

The film is both a history lesson and a concert. It also includes one of the last interviews with the late rockabilly icon Billy Hancock.

"It formed its own sound," Hancock says in the film. "Nobody did anything to create it. And naturally it evolved to what we called the D.C. sound."

Both Buchanan and Gatton died years ago, but the music they created lives on through countless musicians and this film.

"Danny, if you're listening, I hope we did you proud," said director Bryan Reichhardt.

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