Deep Blues

Directed by Robert Mugge
Film Movement Classics
1991
91 Minutes
United Kingdom
English
Documentary, Music, African Diaspora

While some successful blues acts sell out arenas and tour around the world, many of the best blues artists remain relatively unknown. Playing in small clubs or even just in their own yards for local, in-the-know audiences, for them the blues is a way of life rather than just a popular musical trend. In this classic 1991 documentary, music scholar Robert Palmer (author of the eponymous book that inspired the film), filmmaker Robert Mugge, and musician Dave Stewart take an intimate look at these lesser-known yet phenomenal blues artists. The film showcases incredible music from talented players who have never been signed to major labels, but represent the very heart of the blues itself. DEEP BLUES is not just an incredible music documentary, but a "genuine document, deep and earthy; a peek into our national soul" (Los Angeles Times).

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  • "As much an act of preservation as investigation, Deep Blues features priceless performance footage, including the first official recording of Junior Kimbrough (the influential bluesman who wouldn't release an album until 1992), an informal session with R.L. Burnside, and a raucous barroom number by Jessie Mae Hemphill. Palmer and Mugge do a remarkable job capturing both the music and the world from which it comes, and in guitarist and diddley-bow player Lonnie Pitchford, they also find evidence of the music's continual regeneration."
    Keith Phipps, AV Club
  • "Loaded with performance and history, "Deep Blues" is deep indeed."
    Richard Harrington, Washington Post
  • "Palmer serves as our tour guide ... and we could not want for a better host. His extensive knowledge and insight dwells not just on the facts and details of the music and its creators. Sure, he brims with pure historical information but his real gift is his nearly-anthropological commentary that ties this music into its Delta milieu and its African sources and its American spirit. In this he is aided by filmmaker Mugge, whose camera is invariably pointed in the right place, catching the little things, the inflections and reactions, a sort of filmmaking call and response. "
    Marjorie Baumgarten, Austin Chronicle
  • "An expert, guided tour of those areas of the Deep South where old-time blues music flourishes, the film visits backwoods juke joints and urban honky-tonks where the music, often performed with antiquated technology, lives on as an everyday expression of people's lives."
    Stephen Holden, The New York Times
  • "Robert Mugge's "Deep Blues" is a movie no blues lover, no popular music aficionado, and no devotee of American culture and folkways should miss. It's a genuine document, deep and earthy; a peek into our national soul."
    Michael Wilmington, Los Angeles Times
Nominated
Grand Jury Prize
Sundance Film Festival