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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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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Broke and Hungry Records / Cat Head Delta Blues & Folk Art film: We Juke Up In Here! - New Release Review

I have been waiting for this for a long [explicative] time! Once you watch the film that will make a lot more sense. The film opens with just absolutely terrific intro music and the audio is superb and you are thinking.. I don't need no stinking film. Then it begins...Clarksdale, Mississippi and with Roger Stolle and Jeff Konkel dogging around with Red Paden, owner of Red's Lounge. Red is a "real" man and although most of what Red says is unintelligible, the film is captioned for your assistance. A quick tour around Red's place and then a trip out to the former Red's Wine Club, lets just say tin shed and rust. Red tells tales of running his club with huge parties and politics in the back woods towns. He's quite a character. It's funny to watch these guy broach the question of whether Red ever get's any "white folks" out to his place. He's obviously more comfortable answering than they are asking. The first live clip is Big "A" and the Allstars. Big "A" is a younger fellow dressed in really slick clothes (with glitter) and alligator shoes. He has great style. There are only a few short clips and an interview of Big "A" but I'll be looking for video to share!
On the road to Po' Monkey's, described as the coolest looking Juke Joint in Mississippi. Arriving the men are greeted by Willie Seaberry who has been in the Juke Joint business for 55 years. Great signs outside... and the inside is like the coolest dive bar you've ever been in ... and believe me..I've been in your share of dive bars! Po Monkey's got no live music. He indicates that it's more reliable to have DJ's. But it is a place to experience! Back at Red's Lounge, Louis "Gearshifter" Younblood plays parts of a few tunes and is interviewed. Gearshifter actually has a lot of country in his style. Some terrific shots of the countryside and a number of closed previous clubs. I'd like to get some still shots and post them just because of the aesthetic quality in the state of deterioration. The film then focuses on the Do Drop Inn in Shelby, Mississippi where Konkel and Stolle in 2008 filmed Junebug Jefferson. It is under new ownership and the new owner is trying to get live music going again but the community is is so poor that the cost is prohibitive. This place was earlier called Big "E"'s place. Funny that I have a friend in Mississippi named Big E.

Big George Brock, on harp with a drummer is next up at Red's. George is an authentic player who has also has run blues clubs in St. Louis. His suit is quite dapper in dark red and stripes. The contrast from his clothes to his surroundings is quite amazing. It's interesting to get his perspective on what is happening to live blues music venues.

Terry "Harmonica" Bean is up next and a clip of his playing and a discussion of his experience playing in Juke Joints as well as internationally. Again I'll say, If you frequent "dive bars" because you like the atmosphere, you'll understand immediately what this film is discussing. Jimmy "Duck" Holmes is up next and is right on spot with his music. The thing that strikes you is the similarity between the people, the players and the clubs. They are all real. The clubs may be raw and the players may have rough edges... but they are real. There is no pretense. That's what makes this exploration so terrific!

Now off to Blue Front Cafe owned by Jimmy "Duck' Holmes. Even with Holmes owning the club it's hard to sustain a live blues club. Roosevelt Roberts Jr. is featured and Holmes indicates that he is trying to get live music back. It's really telling that the people turn out for the party created by the music, but not for the music itself. But I believe personally that is where it all began. The party and the environment. Elmo Williams is up next on guitar and Hezekiah Early on horn. As the musicians sit around and discuss what is happening to the Juke Joints and why they are disappearing I see a parallel in the 5th largest city in the US where I live. Larger bars with more glitz show up and the smaller bars have a hard time competing because they don't have the amenities... but the "atmosphere" is missing in the new clubs. We (my friends and I) typically judge a bar by the music that is playing when we walk in the door, how the patrons are dressed and how much daylight is inside. Darker is better. In fact, if not for the inability to breathe the next day, smoke is good too! Robert Lee "Little Poochie" Watson is up next and it isn't about flash...but it's real. He belongs in a Juke Joint and it's great seeing him there!
This film is an exploration of Juke Joints and the life that surrounded them. The deterioration of the small town and the movement to the modern life. The documentation of the deterioration is extremely interesting and hopefully through this positive exposure people will see what they are missing when they don't look in the corners. Bob Corritore runs a great club in Phoenix and although it isn't a "Juke Joint", it is real and real people go there and the environment is right. When I moved to Phoenix there was another small club that was absolutely terrific called the Mason Jar. I saw Albert King among others there. It's still a bar but it's a specialty club. What does this have to do with the film... the film is a slice of what we are all losing each day. It's a documentation of not only the blues but of small town America privately owned businesses. It is brilliantly shot and as indicated earlier, the soundtrack is excellent. Be sure to catch the Extras. There is some great footage there which didn't make the film including 6 great blues performances and some interview footage that is quite entertaining! If you love blues music, if you love dive bars, if you have curiosity about the beginnings of the blues and want to hear some great music and see the delta... this is a great bet!

This package includes a great documentary 18 page booklet and an accompanying 14 track music cd. I will review the cd separately yet this week. I believe that it deserves separate consideration even though it is a part of this very extravagant tri-fold presentation package.
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