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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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Showing posts with label Robert Mugge. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Robert Mugge. Show all posts

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.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Last Of The Mississippi Jukes coming to DVD on 10/21

Last Of The Mississippi Jukes
Special Edition DVD coming on 10/21
Robert Mugge's stunning exploration of fading juke joint traditions at the heart of 
Mississippi blues culture, with Morgan Freeman

"American roots music at its most soulful and authentic. Excellent." - Boston Phoenix

"This wonderful documentary [is] a definite good buy for blues fans." - Jazz & Blues Report

"One of the most important Mississippi music films ever made." - Planet Weekly (Jackson, MS) 

LAST OF THE MISSISSIPPI JUKES is Robert Mugge's exploration of Mississippi juke joints, the rustic, often dilapidated music venues where, early in the last century, itinerant blues musicians played for plantation workers and others, creating a powerful new music which soon migrated to Memphis, St. Louis, Chicago, Kansas City, Detroit, and elsewhere. Of course, even as this music spread around the world, changing as it went, it continued to have a strong presence in the state where it was born, a fact clearly shown by Mugge's 1991 film DEEP BLUES. And yet, in the decade after the release of DEEP BLUES, artists who had appeared in that earlier film began passing away, and the jukes where they and others had played became increasingly scarce. So, Mugge decided to make a new film about what was being lost.

Funded by Starz Entertainment Group and premiered at the Starz Denver International Film Festival in November of 2002, LAST OF THE MISSISSIPPI JUKES focused primarily on two well-known venues. One was the legendary Subway Lounge in Jackson, Mississippi, and the other was Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale, Mississippi, a new and more commercial enterprise that drew on virtues of the more modest venues that inspired it. The idea was not that these two music spots were, themselves, the last remaining places where live blues could be heard in Mississippi, but that they embodied important musical traditions which were slipping away.

The Subway Lounge was created by singer Jimmy King and operated by him and his wife Helen in the basement of Jackson Mississippi's historic Summers Hotel. King arrived at the name "Subway," because the entranceway to his basement performance space reminded him of the subway stations he saw on trips to New York City. What makes the hotel itself historic is that it was black-owned during an era of entrenched segregation, and that, when it opened in 1944, it was the first in the region to offer accommodations to African Americans. However, for music fans, its bigger claim to fame was that, in 1966, owner W.J. Summers allowed King to open the Subway Lounge in the hotel's basement, first as a jazz club, and then as a place to hear down-home blues performed late into the night.

By the time Mugge filmed there in the spring of 2002, the hotel had been shuttered for years, and parts of the building had fully collapsed. But the Subway itself was still open every Friday and Saturday night from midnight till approximately 5:00am, with two bands, the House Rockers and the King Edward Blues Band, taking turns as its house band every second weekend. Joining these bands over the course of the night was a diverse group of singers and musicians, some of them stopping by after their paid gigs elsewhere had ended. Together, they played a rich selection of blues standards, including plenty of "soul blues" classics from Jackson-based Malaco Records. As a result, on any given weekend, that dark and dusty room reverberated with joy.

For its part, Ground Zero was started by movie star Morgan Freeman and Clarksdale attorney (now mayor) Bill Luckett, in cooperation with former Blues Foundation executive director Howard Stovall. Together, they took an empty Clarksdale building close by the Delta Blues Museum and decorated it with the standard design elements of jukes - Christmas tree lights, pool tables, catch-as-catch-can furniture, and an overall makeshift sensibility - in order to endow it with the spirit of those traditional, ramshackle performance spaces. Of course, while Ground Zero's well-stocked bar, trendy menus, and sometimes well-heeled patrons sound like the marks of a modern-day music club, their aspirations to make this venue like a juke offered valuable lessons as to what made those earlier venues so distinctive. 

At the time the film was made, Ground Zero was not yet offering as much live musical performance as it soon would. So, Mugge brought in Memphis musician Alvin Youngblood Hart to perform for the evening, accompanied by local musicians Sam Carr and Anthony Sherrod. Mugge and co-producer David Hughes, a Mississippi-based musician and collector, also beefed up the usual Subway Lounge talent with appearances by Vasti Jackson, Bobby Rush, Eddie Cotton, Jesse Robinson, Lucille, Greg "Fingers" Taylor, Casey Phillips, Virgil Brawley, and actor and musician Chris Thomas King, all of whom had played the Subway in the past but, at present, were too busy with their own touring to make more than cursory appearances. Still, the Subway's regular talent (including Patrice Moncell, Abdul Rasheed, Dennis Fountain, Pat Brown, Levon Lindsey, and J.T. Watkins), audience members, and owners represented the heart of the Subway experience, and that was true for the film as well.

LAST OF THE MISSISSIPPI JUKES includes the following narrative threads: an illustrated introduction to Mississippi jukes, discussions of Ground Zero Blues Club and the Subway Lounge, a history of the Summers Hotel and the Civil Rights struggles that both preceded and accompanied it, and a portrait of the public movement to save the Subway Lounge after the building that housed it was condemned. Like most music documentaries, this film alternates between musical performance and related conversation, and interviewees of note include owners of both venues, Subway patrons, singers and musicians, Jackson politicians, a Jackson newspaper reporter, celebrated blues photographer Dick Waterman, and Mississippi blues author Steve Cheseborough.

LAST OF THE MISSISSIPPI JUKES was first broadcast over the Black Starz channel (later renamed Starz in Black) in 2003. In addition, a commercial DVD and separate soundtrack CD were released the same year, yet both disappeared in 2007 when the releasing label went out of business. MVD's new Special Edition DVD includes not only the original feature-length Documentary, but also the original Soundtrack Album and a Video Update created by Robert Mugge in 2005 while he was serving as Filmmaker in Residence for Mississippi Public Broadcasting.

The DVD can be ordered at the MVD Shop or on Amazon

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Friday, March 30, 2012

It's "All Jams on Deck" for Blues Fans on New DVD from Acclaimed Filmmaker Robert Mugge



ATLANTA, GA - All Jams on Deck, the new 96-minute documentary by famed music filmmaker Robert Mugge ( is now available on DVD for the enjoyment of blues fans everywhere. Produced by Mugge and his partner Diana Zelman, executive produced by CEO Roger Naber of Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise, LLC (, and shot/recorded entirely on Naber's October 2010 Blues Cruise to the Mexican Riviera, this Mug-Shot Production is the first film ever to focus on the art form of blues jamming. It also happens to be nominated for Best DVD in the Blues Foundation's 2012 Blues Music Awards competition, with the winner to be announced at the 33rd Blues Music Awards ceremony in Memphis on May 10th.

All Jams on Deck was premiered on the October 2010 and January 2011 Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruises and is now being made available to blues fans and musicians everywhere. Aside from a shipping and handling fee of $5.95, DVD copies can be acquired free of charge by ordering from the Blues Cruise website: In addition, a 12-minute and 36-second trailer for the film can be viewed along with the DVD package design and liner notes at the Mug-Shot Productions website:

Featured in All Jams On Deck are dynamic performances by such major blues artists as Tommy Castro, Elvin Bishop, Marcia Ball, Johnny and Edgar Winter, Kim Wilson, Lee Oskar, Commander Cody, Coco Montoya, Lowrider Band, Larry McCray, Rick Estrin, Jimmy Thackery, Sista Monica Parker, John Nemeth, Steve Berlin, Vasti Jackson, Leon Blue, Rev. Billy C. Wirtz, Eden Brent, Mike Schermer and many more. Also included are discussions of the history, techniques and etiquette of blues jamming featuring the artists themselves, as well as SiriusXM Radio's Bluesville Program Director Bill Wax and blues and jazz historian and producer Bob Porter. .

Early reviews of the new DVD have been glowing. “Originally available as a souvenir for voyagers on the legendary Blues Cruises, All Jams on Deck is becoming known as a film all blues lovers in general should enjoy. It's also a primer for blues performers looking for tips from the pros... Every musician should see this film at least once. Odds are, you'll want to go on a Blues Cruise yourself to enjoy what hot licks sound like after-hours." - Wesley Britton, Blog Critics and Seattle Post Intelligencer

"All Jams on Deck...offers some terrific highlights from the after-hours jams that take place on the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruises. It is actually also a nice primer for performers to learn from the professionals how to run jams... Quite a lot of fun..."

- Gregory Johnson, President, Cascade Blues Association

"I have had the pleasure to watch Robert Mugge's All Jams on Deck, a documentation of late night jams on the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise... This is a film that anyone who loves contemporary blues would enjoy...a great documentary."

- Bman's Blues Report

Many of the performances in the film were captured during the after-hours "pro jams" that take place nightly on the ship's aft Pool Deck, each of them overseen by a different major artist or band. Among the songs recorded during those jams are "A Good Fool Is Hard To Find" and "I Feel That Old Feeling Coming On" led by Tommy Castro; "I Woke Up Screaming," led by Marcia Ball; "Last Dirty Deal," led by Coco Montoya, "Kim's Jam" and "Take A Little Walk With Me," led by Kim Wilson; and "Lowrider Jam," led by the Lowrider Band. Jams captured in other show settings include Elvin Bishop and John Nemeth leading a performance of Bishop's classic "Fooled Around And Fell In Love;" Elvin Bishop sitting in with Johnny and Edgar Winter on "Johnny's Jam;" Vasti Jackson sitting in with Coco Montoya for Jackson's "Hurricane Season;" Vasti Jackson and Laith Al-Saadi demonstrating blues guitar techniques; Kim Wilson and Lee Oskar demonstrating blues harp techniques; Commander Cody and Rev. Billy C. Wirtz demonstrating blues piano techniques; and a stageful of top keyboard players from Leon Blue and Steve Willis to Eden Brent and Kelley Hunt performing ensemble versions of "Honky Tonk Train" and "Boogaloo's Boogie."

All Jams on Deck is director Robert Mugge's second blues DVD release of 2012. The first was Big Shoes: Walking and Talking the Blues, his 90-minute portrait of Ted Drozdowski's blues band, Scissormen, now available from VizzTone as a combination DVD and soundtrack CD. All Jams on Deck is also the second film produced by Mugge and Diana Zelman with Roger Naber serving as executive producer. The first film the three made together was Deep Sea Blues, a 118-minute portrait of the January 2007 Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise to the Caribbean which is available on DVD from Micro Werks.

In the words of the The Hollywood Reporter, "Filmmaker Robert Mugge has...established himself as the cinema's foremost music documentarian." Over the past three-and-a-half decades, he has made dozens of music-related films and TV series, including such acclaimed documentaries as Gospel According to Al Green, Deep Blues, Pride and Joy: The Story of Alligator Records, Hellhounds On My Trail: The Afterlife of Robert Johnson, Last of the Mississippi Jukes, Gather At The River: A Bluegrass Celebration, Black Wax (with Gil Scott-Heron), Blues Divas (with Morgan Freeman), and The Kingdom of Zydeco (with Beau Jocque and Boozoo Chavis). In 2005, just after Hurricane Katrina, Mugge collaborated with Diana Zelman on New Orleans Music In Exile for Starz Entertainment Group, and the two have been working together ever since.

Mugge currently serves as the Endowed Chair Professor of Telecommunications at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. Four of his graduate and undergraduate production students (Joseph Vella, Andrew Bissonnette, Derek Cox and Derek Hall) served as primary crew members for the production. Mugge edited the film in Muncie and supervised post-production at The Dive in Philadelphia. In addition, Steve Savage served as music mixer in San Francisco and George Hunt created the commemorative painting incorporated into the DVD menus and package designed by Scott Burnett at the LRBC offices in Kansas City.

Executive producer Roger Naber is a blues music industry visionary, a former Kansas City club owner, a blues deejay, and a charter cruise pioneer whose first Blues Cruise sailed in 1992. His January 2012 Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise to the Caribbean was his 25th music cruise, with many yet to come. In October of 2012, he is launching a new Southeastern Caribbean Blues Cruise departing from San Juan, Puerto Rico with one of his best artist lineups ever.

In the words of Robert Mugge, "I made my 1986 film Saxophone Colossus because I wanted to know more about jazz improvisation and so chose to work with Sonny Rollins, the greatest living jazz improviser. More recently, Roger Naber proposed that Diana and I produce a film about the late-night pro jams that are the highlight of his twice-yearly Blues Cruises, and I saw this as an opportunity to make a film about jamming and improvising among top blues artists. The result of this collaboration, All Jams on Deck, serves not only as the record Roger wanted of some of his late-night pro jams, but also as the film I envisioned about all aspects of blues jamming. In the end, everyone is happy, especially blues fans and musicians around the world: the musicians because they now have an effective primer for jamming with their peers; and the fans because we're giving away DVDs of this exciting film for free. At a time when the music business and the home video business are both coming apart at the seams, we have devised a new business model to get the film out to everyone we know will enjoy it. And that crazy business model is just to give it away via the Blues Cruise website. Nothing will make us happier than if every blues fan on the planet goes to and requests a copy of his or her own!"

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Your Free DVD copy of “All Jams On Deck”

All Jams On Deck

All Jams On Deck
A film by Robert Mugge

All Jams On Deck Robert Mugge

For many, the highlights of every Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise are the scheduled “pro jams” presented late each night on the aft Pool Deck. On the October 2010 Blues Cruise from San Diego to the Mexican Riviera, music filmmaker Robert Mugge and his crew documented those late-night jams, as well as others taking place throughout the weeklong cruise. The result is a 96-minute music documentary titled ALL JAMS ON DECK which captures exciting and unpredictable performances by such major blues artists as Tommy Castro, Elvin Bishop, Marcia Ball, Johnny and Edgar Winter, Kim Wilson, Lee Oskar, Commander Cody, Coco Montoya, Lowrider Band, Larry McCray, Rick Estrin, Jimmy Thackery, Sista Monica Parker, John Nemeth, Steve Berlin, Vasti Jackson, Leon Blue, Rev. Billy C. Wirtz, Eden Brent, Mike Schermer, Kelley Hunt, and many more. Also included are discussions of the history, techniques and etiquette of blues jamming featuring the artists themselves, as well as SiriusXM Radio’s Bluesville Program Director Bill Wax and blues and jazz historian and producer Bob Porter. The twice-yearly Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise was founded in 2001 by Roger Naber, a blues music industry visionary and charter cruise pioneer whose first Blues Cruise sailed in 1992. Robert Mugge, who has been dubbed “king of the American music documentary” by Paul Malcolm (LA Weekly), and his partner Diana Zelman previously collaborated with Naber on the 2007 film DEEP SEA BLUES. Enjoy this unique opportunity to see multiple band leaders performing together with their tremendous talents and exuberance!

Request Your Free DVD copy of “All Jams On Deck” below.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Robert Mugge - All Jams On Deck - Film Review

I have had the pleasure to watch Robert Mugge's All Jams On Deck, a documentation of late night jams as they take place on the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise. The scene opens with an interview of guitarist and band leader Tommy Castro and one of my absolute favorite artists, Elvin Bishop (the beginning of a dialog that continues throughout the film in clips). The film then cuts to a live jam with Castro and a backing band with guests including such luminaries as Commander Cody (Keys), Keith Crossan (sax), Randy Oxford (trombone), Tom Poole (trumpet), Mike Schermer (deluxe Tele). The first thing that strikes me is how incredibly clear the sound track is and how great of tone Tommy Castro is laying down. This film is incredibly clear considering that it is being shot in pitch black in the middle of the ocean! Tommy is playing a two pickup reverse Firebird and his tones are really creamy through what appears to be Blackface Super (one of my personal favorites). This first jam is a horn driven boogie and as much of a guitar geek I am, I have to commend all the players but especially Oxford who absolutely smoked me on his trombone! Tommy explains how he plans out his set to give every guest musician the opportunity to jam without waiting all night to get on stage. The second jam cuts in with the addition of Coco Montoya playing his upside down Strat and it's clear as a bell. Lee Oskar is playing in this jam as well and really gets a unique sound from his harp. Everyone remembers Lee from his days with War (and subsequent solo career) and now the Lowrider Band. The Commander and the gang all take turns again with the addition of Ed Earley on trombone and George T. Gregory III on Bari sax. These guys lay down a real nice horn duel. The entire band gets into it and it stays tight and doesn't sound like everyone is trying to step on the other of my pet peeves with "Jam" sessions. A further interview clip adds guitarist Jimmy Thackery, Bluesville Program Director Bill Wax, and Blues and Jazz Record Producer Bob Porter who discuss the fine art of jam etiquette. Next up is Johnny Winter and Elvin Bishop on a slow blues jam. It's nice to watch Elvin in a supporting role to Johnny where he can really lay back and just have a good time. Elvin has one of the best tones on the planet and my dream guitar is his old red 345. I just love that guitar. Johnny plays some interesting riffs on his headless Lazer guitar and Elvin plays around him with rhythm and warm slide action. They are joined on stage with Johnny's little brother Edgar Winter on keys although Edgar is an exceptional sax player. There are inserts of Marcia Ball from one of the ports just filling in some of what it's like for a musician to be a part of this program. Marcia then takes the stage for one of the best tracks on the film. Those of you who aren't that familiar with Marcia... this is the real deal. Marcia really gets the joint blusin' with her great vocals and exceptional keys playing. She is backed by the full horn section and it sounds just great. Also onstage are Jimmy Thackery (on Strat) and Terry Hanck (tenor sax), Steve Berlin (bari sax) and Darryl Cloutts (Hammond organ) who all lay down some exceptional solos. The continue dialogue includes guitarists Larry McCray and Coco Montoya discussing the chemistry required to play with musicians from other bands without extensive practice. Coco's Band is next up and he gets a real signature grinding tone from his Strat which has some custom bar pickups installed. The conversation continues with guitarists Vasti Jackson (Strat) and Laith Al-Saadi (Custon Shop Tele with bar pickups) discussing the call and response and a little demonstration jam. It's also really telling of the video that you can easily distinguish who is playing by the tones of their amps. Al-Saadi has beautiful clear tone. Jackson joins Montoya's band for the next track and lays down a blistering jam. I mean...who is this guy!! Kim Wilson (harp) and Lee Oskar (harp) contribute a discussion about the waiting game to where you actually get your turn to shine. Now Kim gets his shot as band leader and he comes on strong with great lush harp tone playing a short duel with Bishop. And then Lee and the Lowrider Band with their rhythm infused blues sound. Oskar definitely has his own sound and Al-Saadi lays down a great double stop filled solo over the Latin inspired track. Lance Ellis (Bari sax) takes a great soulful solo showing great chops and Larry McCray rips out a great solo on his Les Paul Deluxe. Percy Williams continues the jam with a cool trumpet solo and Sista Monica Parker joins mid song with some soul infused vocals. McCray adds his own vocals to the song and he is a great singer singing in the style of Muddy Waters. I love Elvin's shoes which are actually work boots like I wear but Elvin takes it to the next level. He has the lower boot strung with original laces and the upper with a white lace... like I got the bottom comfortable...not touchin' that. Now I have to get my foot in and keep it on.... I know...two laces...brilliant!! (I got this far through the summary without mentioning Al_Saadi's NORML t-shirt). Next up is Bishops hit "Fooled Around And Fell In Love" ... not my favorite Bishop song due to the amount of airplay but I will say that Elvin can really make that old Red Dog bark and he does so on this tune! John Nemeth, sounds incredibly like Mickey Thomas who originally sang this song. Billy C. Wirtz and Commander Cody take the time out to discuss blues structure as an into to an extensive piano jam with Cody, Leon Blue, Steve Willis (Hammond) and Kelley Hunt. Eden Brent joins the jam and takes the stage by storm. This ends up with six players on 3 keyboards (with organ too). Next up is Kim Wilson joined by Rick Estrin playing a Chicago swing and Earley again smokes out a great Trombone solo. It's so great to see these back line guys get their day in the spotlight. John Nemeth blows a great solo on this tune as well as Estrin who gets right into the Chicago groove. The director of this film has gone to great lengths to show each of the band members and to feature each of the players. As the credits roll Oskar and Wilson play a little harp duo which is a fitting conclusion to a great documentary film. This is a film that anyone who loves contemporary blues would enjoy.

Oh...And I dig the cover art by George Hunt!

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All Jams On Deck trailer from Robert Mugge on Vimeo.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Dolly Says Woof/Hillgrass Hillbilly/VizzTone artist: Scissormen - Walking and Talking the Blues- New Release Review

I just received the new release by Scissormen and have listened to it a number of times. In fact, I listened to it a few times yesterday, watched the DVD which comes with the recording last night, and then listened to it again a few times today. I don't know if the cd accompanies the DVD or vice verse but I'll start with the DVD. The footage on the DVD is actually a 90 minute feature directed by legendary Robert Mugge [Gospel According to Al Green, Saxaphone Colossus (starring Sonny Rollins), Deep Blues and New Orleans Musicians in Exile]. I loved Deep Blues and this movie is every bit as captivating but for different reasons. It captures singer, songwriter, guitar player Ted Drozdowski along with drummer R.L. Hulsman reconnecting with the early primitive blues and the life that still exists with it. Drozdowski went to North Mississippi after seeing Mugge's Deep Blues and visited RL Burnside, Jesse Mae Hemphill and Junior Kimbrough. These interactions had a profound affect on Drozdowski. This new film documents the life of a musician turned North Mississippi blues player on the road and it is captivating to watch. The film takes place in a number of settings including numerous "Juke Joints" across the midwest and the Rock and Roll Hall of fame talking with regular people and just capturing the essence of his journey. Drozdowski goes into guitar tunings and explains how and why certain artists sound the way they do. He plays primarily on a heavily tattoo'd (autographed) tele with a humbucker installed in the neck pickup position but also played an old ES 345. Looked like he was playing through an Epiphone Junior amp. He was getting some terrific authentic sounds. The name of the release is Big Shoes referring to Drozdowski's acknowledgement that he is following some legends.

The cd portion is also terrific. It contains 15 tracks all of them great. Both cd and DVD capture the essence of that music genre that we love so much. The slidework all has the characteristic unpolished sound of the real delta blues (sometimes with a bit of delay). Specific tributes are made to both Hemphill and Burnside and if you know their work you know that'd be happy with it. This is a hot package of video and music and I highly recommend it.

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"Big Shoes" Trailer from Robert Mugge on Vimeo.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012





NASHVILLE, TN – Big Shoes: Walking and Talking the Blues, the new 90-minute documentary by famed music filmmaker Robert Mugge (, and an accompanying live CD produced by slide guitar master Ted Drozdowski, will be released as a special 2-disc CD/DVD set March 20 on VizzTone Records. The film and the CD both spotlight Drozdowski's Nashville-based band Scissormen (, and as a prelude to this joint release, the band will perform a special showcase on February 2 at B.B. King's in Memphis during the International Blues Challenge competition.

Big Shoes was produced during Scissormen's tour of the Midwest in February 2010 and is part road movie, part concert film, part history lesson, and part state-of-the-genre report. The film's central performance was shot and recorded at the Key Palace Theater in Redkey, Indiana. Additional live music and interviews were captured at the Slippery Noodle Inn in Indianapolis, Indiana; the Starr-Gennett Foundation in Richmond, Indiana; Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana (where filmmaker Mugge serves as an Endowed Chair Professor); and the Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland Ohio. Still more interviews were shot at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame & Museum in Cleveland. For an 18 1/2-minute preview of the movie and a look at the CD/DVD liner notes, please use this link:

The movie premiered at the Starz Denver International Film Festival and was previewed at sea on the West Coast Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise. After these initial screenings, the film continued on to other prestigious festivals and was shown at various cultural institutions, including Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.

Scissormen are led by renowned guitarist and music journalist Ted Drozdowski, and Matt Snow on drums and percussion. Both the film and the album feature original Scissormen drummer R.L. Hulsman and were made during a tour that reunited him and Drozdowski. Berklee College of Music graduate Matt Snow joined Scissormen full-time in November 2010 after the film was shot, relocating to the band’s Nashville home base to pursue his love of Mississippi grooves and to join Drozdowski in forging a shared vision of deeply rooted contemporary American music. Their latest release showcases the band’s contemporary take on Mississippi delta and hill country based blues. The late Memphis/Mississippi music icon Jim Dickinson offered this take on the band’s distinctive, tradition-steeped roots sound: “Ever wonder what would have happened if Bukka White had discovered the fuzztone? Scissormen play blues for the 21st century.”

Among the new songs debuted in the15 tracks on Big Shoes CD are the movie’s title track, which Scissormen frontman Drozdowski describes as a “blues protest number.” The tune is also a musical journey, starting with basic country blues licks and traveling to a place were the sounds of Africa, the late Junior Kimbrough and Pink Floyd are equally at home. Another new entry is “R.L. Burnside,” a true story of a night Drozdowski spent with the musical mentor who inspired him to found the band 10 years ago performed as an electric country blues. And there’s “Delta Train,” a ghost story set to a riveting Mississippi stomp. Four songs appear on the DVD that are not on the CD disc; and three songs on the CD do not appear on the DVD.

Ted Drozdowski has been on the American blues scene for 30 years. He began writing about the music in the early 1980s and received the Blues Foundation’s “Keeping the Blues Alive Award” for Journalism in 1998. His work has appeared in Rolling Stone, Guitar World, Musician and dozens of other publications. He has also consulted on film projects including 2000’s Martin Scorsese Presents: the Blues PBS-TV series.

All the while he was also an active musician, and along the way he developed a stunning and unique command of slide guitar playing that straddles the provinces of Elmore James and the late jazz guitarist Sonny Sharrock, another of Drozdowski’s mentors. He toured and made a live album with beat poet and activist John Sinclair, and co-wrote songs with Ronnie Earl that the blues guitar virtuoso cut with Irma Thomas and Kim Wilson. More recently Drozdowski produced Peter Parcek 3’s 2010 The Mathematics of Love, which received a Blues Music Awards nomination for Best Debut Album.

“I deeply loved blues all that time,” Drozdowski says, “but I believe an artist has to bring something of their own to the table and I just couldn’t find my own voice in trying to play Chicago, Texas or the other prevalent styles. When I started traveling to north Mississippi in the early ’90s and won the friendship of R.L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough and Jessie Mae Hemphill, slowly a door started to open. As a player, R.L. eventually had to almost shove me through it, but when he did I started to grasp that this was what I was supposed to do with my life.

“What’s wild is that I made my first trip to Junior’s juke joint to hear him and R.L. — who weren’t touring much yet — after seeing Robert Mugge’s film Deep Blues, where their performances blew my mind. So now, being in Big Shoes: Walking and Talking the Blues brings me full circle. And blows my mind!”

According to The Hollywood Reporter, “Filmmaker Robert Mugge has...established himself as the cinema’s foremost music documentarian.” Over the past three-and-a-half decades, Mugge has made dozens of music-related films and TV series, including such acclaimed documentaries as Gospel According to Al Green, Deep Blues, Pride and Joy: The Story of Alligator Records, Hellhounds on My Trail: The Afterlife of Robert Johnson, Last of The Mississippi Jukes, Saxophone Colossus (starring Sonny Rollins), New Orleans Music in Exile, Blues Divas, Deep Sea Blues, The Kingdom of Zydeco and All Jams On Deck. Big Shoes was produced by Mugge and his partner Diana Zelman, and the film's central performance was recorded and mixed by Mugge's Ball State colleague Stan Sollars.

“As the film's title suggests, my primary goal with this film was to demonstrate how Ted simultaneously honors the past masters of blues while also seeking to extend their remarkable legacy,” says Robert Mugge in the album’s liner notes. “Like our late friend and major influence Robert Palmer - known best as the author of the extraordinary book Deep Blues and collaborator with me on the film of the same name - Ted does this both as a perceptive journalist and as a powerful performer. I believe you'll find ample evidence of both on the DVD, assuming it doesn't spontaneously combust on its way to your player. I say that because, yes, above all else, the playing of Scissormen is simply incendiary.”

Scissormen will tour extensively in support of Big Shoes: Walking and Talking the Blues.