DVD - Directed by Scott L.Taradash
by Mr. H, Oct 2005
atmospheric and moving documentary film which centres on performances
and anecdotes from the octagenarian delta bluesman David
as well as interviews and archive footage of some of his contemporaries.
The story begins in the 1920s with life as a sharecropper's son,
picking cotton on the plantations of the Mississippi delta, and
also of the spirituals and work songs which would eventually transform
and be reborn as the 'blues'. What follows is Honeyboy's life told
in short story form as he reminisces about hopping freight trains,
gambling, drinking, womanising, performing and the colourful cast
of blues giants that touch his life along the way.
What sets Honeyboy apart is not just his talent but his longevity.
Although not well known as a recording artist of either the pre
or popular post war blues period, Honeyboy was a contemporary not
only of seminal delta bluesmen, Big Joe Williams, Charley Patton,
Willie Foster and Robert Johnson, but also of the later 'electric'
blues pioneers, Muddy Waters, Little Walter and B.B.King. Some of
the most touching tales are of missed opportunities with the likes
of Sam Philips of Sun Studios and also at Chess Records, where Muddy
Waters apparently "froze" Honeyboy out of recording as
being too much of a potential competitor.
However, this is not a man looking back with bitterness or with
malice. As the story of his life unfolds, we get poignant glimpses
of life on the road, the perils of being a black man without a 'proper
job' in the South in the 1930s, and of his joyous arrival in Chicago
in the early 60s. Throughout the film Honeyboy revels in all the
'good times' of his life with a twinkle in his eye and a knowing
The musical sequences which pepper the film throughout are primarily
solo pieces to camera with Honeyboy performing alone with acoustic
guitar, although there are also a few snippets of live performance.
These songs are delivered simply and photographed beautifully in
a variety of mainly rural Southern settings. Honeyboy's playing
feels spare, instinctive and genuinely authentic in that it feels
like the music of a true original.
The film - the director's debut feature - has a cinematic feel and
the peeling paint of the wooden shacks, and decaying plantation
house locations look like they're from a much earlier time and place.
The camera work is understated and allows the quiet dignity of the
performers to shine through. A sequence with the now deceased Willie
Foster singing unaccompanied in the midst of a field of cotton is
DVD from £10.27 Available from AMAZON
(Although it's listed as 'Region 1' it works
fine on my non-multiregion player. Director Scott says they've sold
plenty in Europe without this being an issue...)