I Am the Blues
Distributed by Film Movement
Produced by Daniel Cross, Bob Moore
Directed by Daniel Cross
DVD, color, 116 min.
High School - General Adult
Music, Musicians, Blues
Reviewed by Jim Hobbs, Online Service Coordinator, Monroe Library, Loyola University, New Orleans, LA
Date Entered: 12/22/2017
I Am the Blues is a look at Southern blues today with players from the last 50 years, but it’s not intended to be a comprehensive survey of blues history. The musicians in this film are primarily in their 70s and 80s, performing here solo, in duos and combos on porches, at roadhouses, in living rooms, and at barbecues and crawfish boils. They show off licks, cook, fish, and drink beer and whiskey. They reminisce about their music and instruments, careers, other musicians, and life on and off the road. Their playing belies their years with masterful skill on guitar, harmonica, and piano. Vistas of the rural south fill the screen: crop-filled fields, railroad tracks, two-lane highways, swamps, and general stores. The film divides its time between the Mississippi Delta and Lafayette, Louisiana, showcasing a variety of musicians in each area.
Bobby Rush gets the most screen time, and he is an articulate man, reflecting on the blues, his creative process, and life in general. Dapper Little Freddie King, elegant Barbara Lynn, no nonsense Lazy Lester, Henry Gray, Carol Fran, Lil Buck Sinegal and more represent the Gulf South. Blues means life isn’t easy, as we see Rush head in hands after a club owner seems to be telling him that he doesn’t have the money to pay for his performance. “If you don’t wanna die young, you’re gonna end up old like us,” opines Lazy Lester. Ira “Dr Ike” Padnos, organizer of the every-other-year New Orleans-based Ponderosa Stomp and tireless revivalist of blues and related styles, is a creative consultant. There are thirty minutes of outtakes, some with artists not seen in the film, like the late Allen Toussaint. Despite dire predictions about the future of the music, several children are seen with guitars, so maybe there will be another generation of blues players.