Films: Big Shoes: Walking and Talking the Blues

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Big Shoes: Walking and Talking the Blues

Big Shoes: Walking and Talking the Blues

USA, 2010, 90 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: Biographical, Documentary, Music
Program: Documentary Films
Language: English

DIRECTOR: Robert Mugge
Principal Cast: 

Guitarist Ted Drozdowski and drummer Rob "R.L." Hulsman are the Nashville-based Scissormen, whose most recent tour finds them introducing their earthy blues repertoire to music fans in the Midwest—a mixture of down-and-dirty juke-joint styles from the Mississippi hills and the Mississippi River Delta that stands in stark contrast to the smooth pop of, say, Indiana native son Hoagy Carmichael (whose building-sized portrait is pointed out by a local in Richmond). These soft-spoken, middle-aged and middle-class white guys have a detached, almost academic understanding of the history of the blues, but their performances are soulful and hard-driving; music is clearly a labor of love for both men, and when they hit the stage they are transformed. Drozdowski wears his guitar as if he’d be naked without it and makes forays into the audience to bring the music closer to people, while Hulsman battles to keep the beat, holding things together so that the guitar, and the guitarist, can take off. Part of the tour is devoted to moments of connection with the proprietors of famous venues and a visit to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in Ohio, but Big Shoes focuses primarily on the now gritty, now mournful sound with which the duo fills small clubs across small-town America.

Over the course of a long career spent documenting roots musicians, director Robert Mugge has covered both the well-known and the best-kept secrets in zydeco, gospel, country, blues, soul, funk, jazz, and rock ’n’ roll, including Sun Ra, Al Green and Sonny Rollins. Big Shoes marks the latest in many appearances by Mugge at the Starz Denver Film Festival; past screenings include Black Wax (SDFF8), The Kingdom of Zydeco (SDFF17), Last of the Mississippi Jukes (SDFF26), and Blues Divas (SDFF28).
—Val Moses

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