M FOR MISSISSIPPI - A ROAD TRIP THROUGH THE BIRTHPLACE OF THE BLUES (DVD)
BROKE & HUNGRY / CATHEAD (M4M001)
Robert Belfour, Bilbo Walker, T-Model Ford, RL Boyce, Harmonica Bean, Jimmy Duck Holmes, Wesley Junebug Jefferson, Cadillac John Nolden, Pat Thomas, LC Ulmer, The Mississippi Marvel, Bill Abel, Lightnin Malcolm
The story is: Cathead's Roger Stolle and Broke & Hungry's Jeff Konkel together with cameraman Damien Blaylock and sound recordist/guitarist Bill Abel took a week out and headed deep into Mississippi to film how the blues was doin' down there. They visited juke joints, back porches and blues bars to document musicians who have been operating under the radar most of their performing lives and they came back with the kind of film any red-blooded blues fan would have loved to have been involved with.
They visit Terry Bean who plays blues harp at the Ground Zero Club, tour the Stovall Farm with Wesley Jefferson, a charming individual who later cranks out some tough Howlin' Wolf style blues in a Shelby blues club and they drop in at a party at RL Boyce's house in Como. Pat Thomas, the blues singing folk artist offspring of the late Son Thomas takes them to his father's grave and they visit his studio to see his latest work.
T-Model Ford invites the crew in and regales ‘em with testosterone filled stories about his life as a bad man in Mississippi. Then he straps on the electric guitar, sets his grandson Stud on the drum kit and proceeds to rock the joint with a blistering version of "Hip Shakin' Woman". It's exactly what you dream of seeing in the flesh!
Then it's on to Bentonia, home of Skip James, Jack Owens and the owner of the Blue Front Café, Jimmy Duck Holmes. In the old days Duck reckons the Café was damn near as thrilling as Las Vegas but in 2008 it looks as gentile as a tea room in Clun until Duck takes to the stage and unleashes an intense gem of country blues "Slow Down" and you're in blues heaven. Next stop is Cadillac John's home in Renova where he and Bill Abel give us a wonderful piece of archaic blues with John laying down some strident harp lines over Abel's rustic runs on a home made guitar.
Back in Clarksdale, Bilbo Walker plays an entertaining version of "Bring It On Home" but it's his witty and self-deprecating conversation that tickles me. Down the block, at Red's Lounge, Robert Belfour performs for about sixteen people but no matter, he delivers the goods and then makes himself available for a probing interview with Mr Stolle and Mr Konkel. Strange to see musicians like this playing to a small audience when their European tours play to packed houses.
My favourite part is the LC Ulmer sequence. LC is an eighty year old who's been playing guitar and singing the blues for more than fifty years around the hamlet of Taylor. He takes off strumming in his own weird style, using his thumb to stroke out the loping bass lines while his fore finger picks out scratching little licks that seem to meander and choogle along for as many beats as it takes for him to howl out the lyrics. He plays the kind of music that I could listen to all day - I'd have liked to have seen more of him.
I could go on and on about the great moments in this DVD, the wonderful photography of the Mississippi landscape, the hilarious opening section, the way they film the Mississippi Marvel (a deacon who does not wish to be identified on film), not to mention the great trailer and outtakes you get in the special features bit...
Definitely a DVD to relish! Just the thing to brighten these cold winter nights.
Review Date: January 2009