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I started a quest to find terrific blues music and incredible musicianship when I was just a little kid. I also have a tremendous appreciation of fine musical instruments and equipment. One of my greatest joys all of my life was sharing my finds with my friends. I'm now publishing my journey. I hope that you come along!


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Sunday, October 16, 2016

Robert Mugge film - Last of the Mississippi Juke Joints - DVD review

I just had the opportunity to review the new release, Last of the Mississippi Juke Joints, a film by Robert Mugge and it's really interesting. This film chronicled the days of Jimmy King's legendary Subway Lounge in Jackson Mississippi and the early days of Morgan Freeman's and Bill Luckett's Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale Mississippi, a heartfelt attempt at recapturing the spirit of fading juke joint traditions. This film documents interviews with Morgan Freeman and Bill Luckett and Dick Waterman, famed music photographer. The first live set is with Alvin Youngblood Hart with Sam Carr and Anthony Sherrod. Hart's performance is super as always with a great voice and pure slide techniques. Showing the real flavor of a juke joint, Luckett and Freeman point out beer signs, pool tables, antiques signs, flea market tables, mis matched table cloths and catfish sandwiches, all the things that make a juke joint feel authentic. This is no city blues club. This is the real deal. Next up interview with Steve Cheseborough and Jimmy King at Subway and featuring a set by Greg "Fingers" Taylor. Ongoing commentary by Vasti Jackson adds color and texture to the film. A short clip of Dennis Fountain & Pat Brown is inserted before more discussions with blues players like House Cat Hendrix. The dynamic Patrice Moncell takes on the stage with a hot band featuring James Levinthal on alto sax and a hot guitar player, Mark Whittaker. Eddie Cotton plays his telecaster and sings by himself sitting at a table as a part of his interview. One of my favorite antidotes from the film is when Jimmy King tells about his beer buckets. They serve beer cans by the bucket over ice. At the end of the night often the beer is left unopened and the bar takes it back (to sell again). Once beer sales are stopped for the night, patrons are free to bring in their own beer. King happens to sell beer next door in his store after hours and with a receipt from next door his bar gives them a bucket of ice to continue to drink in his establishment until daylight. Vasti Jackson plays his set with local scenery showing in the background as well as clips of earlier days in black and white. JT Watkins and Levon Lindsey have a powerful gospel blues style. Bobby Rush does a real nice track just singing alone with harp as a part of the interview. A profile of the Summers Hotel, the first black owned hotel in the area is quite interesting. The Subway lounge is located in the basement of this older structure which was the home of blues and R&B musicians touring in the 50's. King Edwards Blues Band shows it's own style of R&B. Chris Thomas King is next up in the interview chair describing plans for new club and showing the sad state of repairs on the hotel. David Hughes is next on the stage with his shuffle style. Further community interviews with shows of support for the conservation of the Summers Hotel and cards from some of the more notable visitors including Hank Ballard, Mrs James Brown and the Freedom Riders. Devastating films and imagery of racial tension, segregation and cruelty are also shown further documenting the importance of the hotel in history. Chris Thomas King does a real nice delta style blues alone accompanying himself on a National steel bodied guitar. Further plans to remove substantial portions of the hotel due to collapse and the renovation of historic structures on the Civil Rights Tour are shown before the ultimate destruction of the hotel to the sounds of Lucille with Greg "Fingers" Taylor. Cheseborough does his own rendition of a delta blues song with his own steel bodied guitar as Jimmy and Chris discuss how the new clubs just won't be the same. An interesting juxtaposition. Abdul Rasheed, a solid soul singer is up next with his set. Closing the film is Fingers Taylor and the Subway Shuffle. This is a meaningful film documenting not only the music of the area but also the texture of the music scene and remnants of the roots of the blues.


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