Highly regarded for her work in several genres, Jenny Scheinman brought her country fiddle playing and down-home singing talents to Hannaford Hall at the University of Southern Maine on Friday night for a Portland Ovations event.

The California native provided a live soundtrack for an engaging documentary put together by filmmaker Finn Taylor from footage shot by H. Lee Waters as he toured the Piedmont region of the South in the later years of the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Waters’ intent was essentially commercial. He wanted to get folks to pay admission to see themselves in his films. As such, the focus is on the upbeat. Much of the one-hour “Kannapolis: A Moving Portrait” shows smiling and often dancing children and adults at social events, at work or just out on the streets contentedly going about their everyday lives.

Now, years later and with the fragments of film structured by Taylor through repetition of certain sequences, the images do seem to reveal a populace that had reached a certain social equilibrium, if not equality, on the eve of World War II.

Scheinman and multi-instrumentalists Robbie Fulks and Robbie Gjersoe offered syncopated rhythms to match the action on screen and homespun harmonies to suggest the mood of the scenes. Melodic content came to the fore on vocal numbers that occasionally lent a darker hue to the almost overwhelmingly bright images projected above. At their bittersweet best, Scheinman and company both evoked and musically commented upon the broader aspects of the period culture.

Racial segregation is apparent in the film, as are class and economic divides, and Scheinman seemed to attempt to musically fill in some of the blanks about the long-ago moments only partially preserved in this film. With occasional hints of a haunting melancholy in her playing, as in “Esme,” she added a welcome dimension to round out the projected imagery.

Her vocal on “The Littlest Prisoner” suggests family ties and women’s roles while “Sacrifice,” augmented by some otherworldly electric guitar effects from Gjersoe, laments the trajectory that the lives of some of the film’s young people will likely take.

The instrumental “Up on Shenanigan” established a balance between guitar, banjo and fiddle that reached deep into the origins of the music of the region. The energy of “Deck Saw” also reminded that life moves on, even while it may seem set.

Fulks’ “I’ll Trade You Money for Wine” displayed his bluegrass vocal strengths, going beyond the film’s images to introduce a grittier sense of the times. His take-charge turn in a brief encore segment also drew a strong response from the crowd.

Scheinman finished the evening with the delicate instrumental, “Debra’s Waltz,” lending a heartfelt finish to a presentation that confirmed the powers of film and music to provide materials for a deeper understanding of, as well as a fuller appreciation for, the times of our lives.

Steve Feeney is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.