The looming liquidation of Hostess Brands represents 185,000 jobs likely lost. That is a whole lot of blues in the Obama
era. Ever mindful of the significance of
an African American president in the White House, Marteen Schmidt & Thomas
Doebele take a Lomaxian journey into deep southern blues country to find out
how blue the traditional bluesmen’s blues still are in Times Like Deese: You Can’t Keep a Man Down Always (trailer here), which screens
during the 2012 African Diaspora International Film Festival in New York.
is heard a discouraging word about the 44th president, but L.C.
Ulmer’s first blues is dedicated to James Meredith, the civil rights pioneer
who integrated Ole Miss and later became a high profile staffer for Sen. Jesse
Helms. His lyrics end before that point,
making it exactly the sort of song Schmidt and Doebele were hoping to
record. “Blind Mississippi” Morris
Cummings seems the readiest to oblige with political material directly
addressing current controversies. Less
topical but still on-point for the Dutch filmmakers, musicians like Josh “Razorblade”
Stewart, Chester “Memphis Gold” Chandler, and Charlie Sayles often sing blues
about their experiences serving in Viet Nam.
Times Like Deese
problematically condescending attempt at approximating rural Southern vernacular)
has some deeply felt music, but its economic analysis is rather shallow. Regardless, it is nice to see the blues is
alive and well as a form of musical statement.
Perhaps Stewart has the most memorable performance, with a decidedly ribald
take on “Trouble in Mind,” but most of the old school bluesmen acquit
themselves in style. However, the
occasional nods to hip hop are consistently underwhelming.
might shock New Yorkers to learn B.B. King’s Blues Club in Memphis actually
books blues artists, unlike the 42nd Street club that largely presents
vaguely blues-influenced rock bands. Indeed,
it is quite cool to see Cummings play a set there. Co-director-co-editors Schmidt and Doebele make
storied Blues capitals like Clarksdale appear almost completely untouched by
time or economic development. Granted,
profound change might well be due there, but there also seems to be a bit of
the blues collectors’ notorious poverty fetishism going on as well.
Arguably, the blues gets less financial love and
support than even jazz, so any blues doc treating the music with respect earns
a recommendation for fans. TLD would have served the music better
if it were not so desperate to make political points, but Schmidt and Doebele
are sure to impress plenty of festival programmers that way. Recommended for traditional blues devotees, Times Like Deese has its American
premiere this Saturday (11/24) at the Columbia Teacher’s College Chapel as part
of the 2012 ADIFF in New York.
Labels: ADIFF '12, Blues, Documentary, Dutch cinema