13 May 2012

An Audio/Visual Love Letter Called M FOR MiSSiSSiPPi

"I'm backed by the river and i'm fronted by the grave."
-Red Paden, owner of Red's Lounge, Clarksdale

Broke and Hungry Records’ Chief Jeff Konkel and his pal Roger Stolle, of Clarksdale's Cathead Art and Music just released their new documentary M For Mississippi to rave reviews, mine included. M For Mississippi is the best and most essential blues documentary since my all time fave Deep Blues

M for Mississippi isn't some soul less academic search for the history of the blues; it's the blues as it's happening now. Part road trip, part buddy film, M for M manages to be just as hilarious as it is poignant, moving, and educational. Not content to put together some dry dull (Cue Ben Stein/Eeyore voice over: This is the blues. This is where it came from. This is the poverty in Mississippi. Then everybody moved to Chicago and lived happily ever after …) film our hosts hopped in the van themselves with brilliant cameraman/filmmaker Damien Blaylock and recording engineer Bill Abel (who has a studio set up in the back of his Volvo wagon) to roll around the state and survey today's blues scene for a pulse check. Attention world: It ain't dead. Not by half. 

Of course it all depends on how you define the blues. Is it some dude slinging a guitar behind his head and wankin' weedleyweedley Chicago-style pyrotechnics with his teeth at a casino in Clarksdale? If that's your thing, I guess. Ain't mine. Ain't Stolle and Konkel's idea of blues either. M For Mississippi delivers a small taste of what's left of Mississippi's non-corporate blues scene. For me, and for these film makers, the blues is Mr. Tater The Music Maker, a street musician so incredibly idiosyncratic he verges on living blues folk art. It's notorious eighty-something year old ladies man and Fat Possum Records’ legend T-Model Ford. It's the seventy-eight year old Mississippi Marvel who hides his identity so as not to cause a rift in his church by playing the devil's music or Pat Thomas, a blues man with a beautiful and haunting voice who also happens to be a folk artist working in collage and, like his father blues man Son Thomas in clay. And it's Jimmy "Duck" Holmes who operates the Blue Front Cafe, one of Mississippi's last real juke joints, and who carries the torch of Skip James and Jack Owens' high lonesome Bentonia Mississippi sound

Whatever it is it's raw and powerful and done with pure honest soul. These artists and others in the film just do their thing and would be doing it whether Konkel and Stolle recorded them and put 'em in a movie or not. Yeah, they can be and are entertaining but that ain't the reason they play. They play because they live it and live for it. What they do has more in common with punk rock than whatever it is that claims to be punk rock today. 

M For Mississippi is a visually gorgeous film that is at once thoughtful and funny, hi-tech and low-down. This film is an audio/visual music geek’s love letter to the native music of Mississippi and America that I proudly declare to be a fine matching bookend to, if not part two of Deep Blues. Thanks to Jeff Konkel and Roger Stolle and, most of all to the artists involved, the story continues.

"Look what you can get if you don't clown.
But if you clown you don't get a dog gone thing
-Mr. T-Model Ford

There is also a fine soundtrack available, too. Actually there will be two soundtracks. The tracklisting for the first soundtrack is as follows:

1. M for Mississippi - Big George Brock
2. The wolves are howling - Wesley Jefferson Blues Band
3. Ain't it alright - R.L. Boyce and Lightnin' Malcolm
4. I'm a bluesman - Terry 'Harmonica' Bean
5. Slow down, slow down - Jimmy 'Duck' Holmes
6. Black Mattie's face - The Mississippi Marvel and Lightnin' Malcolm
7. Hip shakin' woman - T-Model Ford and Stud
8. Give it all to me baby - Cadillac John Nolden and Bill Abel
9. The woman I love - Pat Thomas ((((mp3))))
10. Bring it on home - Robert Bilbo Walker Band
11. Rosalee - L.C. Ulmer
The second volume will be out in the spring. It will feature more songs recorded during the filming. Twelve tracks in all, including an unreleased solo-harp version of the theme song.
You can buy the M For Mississippi DVD + the soundtrack + free shipping anywhere in the world for only forth dollars direct from Broke and Hungry right HERE.
You can buy the Deep Blues
dvd from Amazon right HERE.
M For Mississippi Trailers

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