I Am The Blues (Daniel Cross). 106 minutes. Opens Friday (June 3). See listing. Rating: NNNN
I Am The Blues isn’t a flashy, sexy music documentary. It just wades in and gets the job done.
Director Daniel Cross brings his camera to the places where old bluesmen and blueswomen already are – bars, juke joints, seniors’ centres, their apartments – and records them sitting and talking.
They trade memories, mull over their histories, talk about what Muddy Waters was like as a bandleader. (Fun guy offstage, dictatorial pro onstage.) At one point we find ourselves in a living room with Bobby Rush, Henry Gray, Carol Fran and Lazy Lester, and of course, they jam and it’s fantastic.
The stories are pretty good, too; the blues is an oral tradition, after all. Rush, who serves as Cross’s guide to the culture, talks about playing gigs for hamburgers that he and his band would then sell for a little pocket money.
His friend Jimmy “Duck” Holmes, who’s been running the Blue Front Café in Bentonia, Mississippi, since the early 70s, remembers throwing open his doors to find the best blues players in America lined up waiting to play.
Those days are long gone, but for a couple of hours I Am The Blues brings them back to vivid life, and it’s a joy.