78 of 83 people found the following review helpful
on July 2, 2000
I've been a big fan of the work of the late great blues historian/folklorist, Robert Palmer, for sometime now. His book, DEEP BLUES, is generally regarded as the definitive reference on the Delta tradition... and rightly so (needless to say, if you don't have it... get it). What a treat to finally get a chance to meet the guy... albeit, on my TV screen.
In this eponymous documentary, Palmer assumes the role of the proverbial veteran "tour guide," casually offering us expert commentary, laced with entertaining anecdotes and served up with dry Southern wit. While we do hear and see a great deal of Palmer, the film never loses its main focus-- the blues and the musicians who keep this important element of American musical heritage alive and kicking. Each of the featured artists performs one or two songs in their entirety-- in sharp contrast to so many other music documentaries, which par down their musical selections to excerpted sound bites to make room for talk, talk and more talk.
Here we find everything from down-home guitars and mouth harps being played on farm house porches to full bands--influnced by the modern Chicago-style, yet still distinctly "Pure Delta"--playing in dark, smoke-filled juke joints. True to the blues tradition, the music is hot and sweaty. You can't watch this film and sit still--you gotta shake something. Highlights: cane fife player Napoleon Strickland (you can hear more of this wonderful pre-blues tradition on TRAVELING THROUGH THE JUNGLE: NEGRO FIFE AND DRUM MUSIC FROM THE DEEP SOUTH, an album on the TESTAMENT label, and several ARHOOLIE compilations); the totally stylin' Jessie Mae Hemphill (granddaughter of Blind Sid Hemphill, the pre-blues style fiddler/quills [panpipes] player documented in the Lomax field recordings); harp player Bud Spires telling a folktale about the devil, accompanied by Jack Owen's soulful guitar picking in the cranky, individualistic Bentonia style, popularized by the early bluesman, Skip James; and Lonnie Pitchford's intense singing as he accompanies himself on the diddley bow (a raised metal string nailed to the side of a house, which you pluck with a plectrum and note with a slide).
33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on July 25, 2000
The film covers some of the same territory as Alan Lomax's excellent "The Land Where the Blues Began," apparently a few years down the line. It offers so much--the leisurely, respectful cinematography of Robert Mugge; the enthusiastic, informed, perceptive commentary of the late, lamented Robert Palmer; the riveting performances of Jessie Mae Hemphill, Roosevelt "Booba" Barnes, Junior Kimbrough, and others. The sequence featuring Big Jack "The Oilman" Johnson, particularly on "Catfish Blues," is worth the price of the ticket in itself. It's one of the best juke joint performances ever captured on film. This film is essential, indispensable, and downright captivating.
25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on April 26, 2000
This is a great documentary on blues music. The DVD version is packed with alot of extras, from the usual outtakes that most DVDs offer, a interview with producer Dave Steward (of EURYTHMICS) to bonus audio tracks. I have DEEP BLUES on VHS but the tranfer to DVD is great, this what a DVD version of any subject should be like. I had the chance to meet and see the late Roosevelt "Booba" Barnes play, one of the artist featured, and seeing his performance took me back to that day. If you love the blues, you'll love this movie.
16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on June 24, 2003
Bankrolled by rockstar superstar Dave Stuart and presented by Robert Palmer, author of the superb book of the same name, this film was a very timely voyage into the blues of missisipi. Timely because a number of the cast have died since this film was shot, including the presenter.
Traditional old blues haunts such as Memphis, Clarksdale and Greenville are visited, and fine artists relatively unknown at the time were recorded such as Big Jack Johnson, Booba Barnes and Lonnie Pitchford. Delta old timers Jack Owens, Bud Spires and Booker T. Laury also turn in fine, spirited performances. But for me the highlight is the attention given over to the more obscure "hill country" blues of north missisipi, featuring Jessie Mae Hemphill, R. L. Burnside and the late great Junior Kimbrough and his original juke joint in Holly Springs. Here the music extends from country blues to "drum and fife", a hypnotic musical form that predates blues all the way back to the revolutionary war, but which now faces extinction since the passing of Othar Turner (not featured here, but a close friend of Hemphill). The bonus items are very welcome, especially the extra performances by honkytonk genius Booker T. to the drunk audience comprised of Stuart and Palmer, and Lonnie Pitchford's demonstration of the diddly bow. Also included are extra audio tracks that were originally only available on the soundtrack album (now deleted).
This film helped to revive not just interest in country and acoustic blues in general, but the careers of all of the artists featured. This film is well shot, sounds great, and shares the passion and emotion of some great bluesmen and women. After this, try the "Feelin' Good" CD by Jessie Mae Hemphill. Not only is that a beautiful album, but Jessie's an invalid now who desperately needs the cash!
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on March 31, 2002
The late journalist Robert Palmer and director Robert Mugge toured the South and successfully documented some incredible blues performers, most of whom had never been recorded before. They open a window into a world of juke joints, fish frys, and country folk for whom the blues remains a vital part of their lives. There is some truly amazing music; for me, the highlights were Booba Barnes and Junior Kimbrough. Between the songs, there are short segments that provide some background and an opportunity for the performers to speak for themselves. Eurythmic Dave Stewart's on-screen involvement is mercifully brief--the juxtaposition of carefully styled Euro-rocker with authentic, down-to-earth rural types is jarring to say the least. The contrast inadvertantly reminds us of a major aspect of the appeal of the blues--it's purity as opposed to the way so many other genres have been shaped by concerns over saleability and fashion.
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on June 16, 2001
This is a terrific documentary and I endorse everything the reviewers below say - especially Steve Kaplan, who was actually in the film! Well done Steve! For me the highlight was Lonnie Pickford's virtuoso, but utterly faithful, take on Robert Johnson's Come On In My Kitchen and If I Had Possession Over Judgment Day. Eerie though it is to listen to a recording of Johnson's original item, it does require some imagination to get through the poor recording quality - it is definitely rewarding to hear (and see) it played freshly and crisply in front of your very eyes. Lonnie definitely goes on my list of Must Buys.
The only nitpicks have nothing to do with the music, but firstly the curious decision to film everything (including the interview out takes) in Black and White and secondly the (happily brief) appearances of that doyen of Mississippi blues, Sunderland's own Dave Stewart, founder of the Eurythmics and, even more credibly, the Spiritual Cowboys.
I suppose we have Dave to thank for having the film at all; seemingly he bank-rolled it - and in fairness he did have the sense to leave it for the most part to Robert Palmer (no, not THAT Robert Palmer) and the artists. But the vision of this anaemic little guy with a silly beard, dyed black hair, and faux rock star get-up when it appears amongst this totally down-home, real-life music - and even JOINING IN at one stage, god forbid - is pure Spinal Tap.
As is the interview segment of the DVD, which inexplicably feeatures a clip of the Eurythmics playing Missionary Man live in its entirety, and concludes with Mr Dave summing up his views on the blues in the following fashion:
"It's like - Shakespeare. How can you ever not have, um, Blues Music?"
Derek Smalls could not have put it better.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on August 27, 2002
When I was in my early 20s I lived in Mississippi, visited the juke joints and became a great fan of not only delta blues but the then little known north MS "hill country" blues. This indoctrination occured in the early 70s. I heard RL Burnside and Mr Kimbrough when they were much younger and I can tell you that this documentary is testimony to their virtuosity as Mississippi state treasures, bluesmen extrodinare. Rl's non pretentious manner and performance of "Jumper on the Line" will give the listener and viewer a good representation of the hard driving style of MS hill country blues. The camera angles and brief glimpses of the typical surroundings give the viewer a hefty slice of what one would encounter on a soujorn to listen to this style of blues in its own "backyard". An especially charming performance of Lonnie Pitchford playing a wire strung up off the porch of his house like a slide guitar is absolutely stunning. Dave Stewart of the Eurithmics joins Robert Palmer as musical guides through this musical adventure. There is even a short piece on a store on Beale Street in Memphis that has survived through the years that still sells "John the Conquerer root" and "Mojo hand". This DVD offers just about everything but dissapointment.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on January 30, 2003
As a country/delta guitar man I was thrilled to see this un-slick and organic presentation of "the real deal" living the blues and making the blues., not to mention the rural country side and people. Once to see/hear Junior Kimbrough and Jesse Mae Hemphill as well the rest of the artists, you'll be better for it. Speaking of Junior, (passed on) his juke burnt to the ground.. and a few years back Jesse Mae Hemphill suffered a stroke. Her condition has takin away her guitar ability however she states "I still sing for the Lord" .. She lives alone and has no family and feels she's forgotten. She still lives in Mississippi and I understand she's just making it. There are web sites that will give you a mailing adress if you are so inclined to drop Jesse a card of thanks.Back to the DVD, Robert Palmer (also deceased) is an unsung hero of keeping the blues and he truly was a musicolgist and a blues encyclopedia, he kept blues in the consciousness of our country and it was great to see him in this film. and I noticed I few reviewers "dissed" in so many words Dave Stewart.. Lighten up a little on the guy. It was Englishmen that "introduced" the blues to our own musically ignorant generation in the 1st place and he's helping to keep it going with this great DVD. Other reviewers did a much better job than I could in depicting diffrent parts of "Deep Blues" but I would like the blues guitarist out there to take a good look a the instruments being played.. If you look closely you'll see that some of them are imported "clones" and I even saw a Squire being played. Not very many of these players have multi-thousand dollar guitars, it seems like in place of expensive fancy guitars they use talent to play the deep blues. GET THIS DVD IF YOU WANT THE RAW REALITY of WHATS ITS REALLY ALL ABOUT -
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on April 28, 2001
This movie is the end result of ten long hard years of playing Beale ST night clubs with Blind Mississippi Morris.Everythig in this movie points out the struggle of trying to stay alive in a world of poverty.The band backing Big Jack in the movie was Blind Morris" Beale ST club band "The Blues Connection".We Just thought it was a video,but when we got to Clarksdale we saw a full blown movie production aimed straight at us.We had never played a lick with Big Jack before filming started.Everything in the film is improvised.Oddly enough Blind Morris got cut from the final screening.There must enough out takes to release Deep Blues2.Many songs such as "Chinese Blues" never made it to the big screen.This movie is the real thing.Big Jack has to be the best all around blues player in the known universe.Power,speed feeling,raw but beautifull,blues icon etc.Electric neon bluesman.Big Jack is all of these.We played the Sunflower festivals for years now at the train depo in the center of Clarksdale.I'm well pleased some attention has finally come to Jack. I love you Jack; Sincerely Steve Kaplan,your biggest fan and white boy keyboard man.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on November 23, 2010
Some great stuff here - the foot age of a younger RL Burnside is priceless.
I received it at the same time as "You see me laughin?", which blew me away. I guess I prefer a grittier style of blues - a lot of the music was more polished than I like, in a BB King way - but there IS interesting stuff all the way through.
The narrator is odd, but loves what he is doing - hats off to him.
Having said that, it was made in 1990, and if not for this we would never have met RL or Junior.
And as for Dave StewArt...... at least his heart was in the right place.