"Beesley's first movie, Hill Stomp Hollar, explores the world of Fat Possum Records, a Mississippi-based indie label that specializes in the particular style of blues found in the northern nether regions of that state -- "not the same ole blues crap," says one participant. It's heavy on slide and is filled with artists whose "scars are on their ankles and in their music." Featured in the film full of juke joints and house parties are R.L. Burnside (who has opened for the Beastie Boys and will appear at the Ozark Blues Festival September 8 in Springfield, Missouri); T-Model, whose limited career has left him basically homeless; and Cedell Davis, who has adapted his musical technique to his polio affliction by manipulating the neck of his guitar with a butter knife. The men tell their experiences in prisons, chain gangs and liquor stores. And though their following is fervent, it's extremely limited. Says Matthew Johnson, who started the label, "We have 800 dedicated fans. When one dies, it's felt." Johnson, however, was less than pleased with the movie, Beesley says. "They hated it so much, the label has bought the film back from me. They tried to stop its showing at the 1999 South by Southwest festival, but the organizers showed it anyway. Wherever I show it now, it has to be at a not-for-profit affair." Nevertheless, the film is adept at capturing an unappreciated sect of songwriters and musicians who regale fans with stories of homicide, "ass-pocket whiskey" and the "fat women of Pine Bluff, Arkansas." "Once I turned on the camera," Beesley recalls, "they really didn't understand the consequences of what they were saying."
Years later another Fat Possum Records documentary was released called You See Me Laughin' and it contained a lot of the same stuff that was in Hill Stomp Hollar, and much, much, more. I'm glad to see this dusted off and posted for everyone to see. Thanks to Richard Metzger's allways terrific Danger Minds blog for posting it first.