Located along the Tennessee River is Muscle Shoals - a small town in Alabama and an unlikely breeding ground for some of America's most creative and interesting music. Under the influence of "the singing river" as the Native Americans called it, Muscle Shoals has helped create some of the most important songs of all time.

Etta James
Etta James Recording At Muscle Shoals Studio

At the heart of the Muscle Shoals sound is Rick Hall - sounds like a wrestler, actually the founder of FAME studios, home of house band The Swampers.

The band eventually left to start their own successful studio, known as Muscle Shoals Sound, which shaped the early sounds of Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, Etta James and the Staples Singers before attracting mainstream rock and pop acts including The Rolling Stones, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson.

Greg Camelier's new movie - which opens in the U.S. today - attempts to fathom why the remote area of Alabama created some of the most emotional soul and funk music of all time, often pointing towards the apparent 'spirit' on the river. It could be the fact that he had good equipment and excellent engineers and producers - but that's just us.

Bob DylanNice Hairdo: Bob Dylan Outside Muscle Shoals Sound Studio

The documentary has racked up a 92% score on Rotten Tomatoes, with most critics agreeing that it'll deeply satisfy the funk and soul geeks. 

"This geeked-out tribute to the rural Alabama town that birthed an improbable amount of classic R&B and rock doesn't have a theory behind its parade of hits. Not that you'll mind very much," said Time Out New York.

"The archival footage is strong, Camalier is generous with musical clips, and the talking heads generate some drama when describing epochal moments like Aretha's first session," said Village Voice.

"Overall, it's joyous, uplifting - and as funky as the music at its heart," wrote the Daily Telegraph.

Watch the Muscle Shoals trailer:

"Only the genre's most studious followers will be able to watch Muscle Shoals without being regularly astonished: Even if it sometimes gets lost in its byways, Greg "Freddy" Camalier's documentary tells an extraordinary story," said NPR.

It's been a solid couple of years for musical documentaries, with A Band Called Death, Sound City and the Oscar winning Searching for Sugar Man. Soul fans should also check out Standing in the Shadows of Motown (2002) for more recording studio geekery. 

Muscle Shoals TrailerThe Official Poster For Muscle Shoals