The DVD starts out with an introduction by the author, Kari Fretham. She started listening to music at a very young age with the radio show “Amos and Andy’. It was the great B.B. King song, “The Thrill Is Gone” which started her blues craze. She describes what she feels when listening to the music as “emotional intensity” as well as it being real, and rough around the edges. Fretham has been hanging out in blues joints for over ten years. This film documents several popular spots of South Los Angeles.
The first stop is Downtown Bells Blues Workshop. This is an all out educational and blues jam experience. Over ten musicians are on hand to help people learn and feel the blues. One witness states that “the blues understands; it is relatable”. The Second stop is Ruth’s Fourth of July Party. Again with a main overview of brining people together, various artists play at this all day party. One visitor said, “blues that moves your innards, gotta be good!” Spade Castle is the third stop on the journey. This little place has a lot of character including an outside fire pit in all weather which people gather around to feel good. People are quoted as saying “If you want to understand music, you gotta understand blues first”. There is an obvious bond of companionship, dance, and friends.
Next comes Bobby Warrens Labor Day Party. Similar to Ruth’s Fourth of July Party, there is bonding, jamming, drinking, food and overall gathering of like-minded people. One performer that will particularly catch the viewers’ attention is Jackie Jackson. She is a harmonica-playing woman with a ton of soul and feeling. Then comes The Living Room on the track of blues in South L.A. This club is located on Crenshaw & Adams and very much sports a juke joint type feel. Patrons have been coming for years and it is noted that certain people have the same chairs and the same bar stools every time they visit. Anniversaries, birthdays, and general gatherings are celebrated here.
Up next is Jackson’s Nightspot. The owner clarifies that it took over four years to get a band to play there. With a stable band that includes Tay “Little Spider” Nixon on harmonica and Buddy Pierson on keyboard, there is plenty of feeling through music at this place. Again, the common bond of music, friends, and relaxing is key to this spot. The last venue on the road to the blues of South L.A. is the Barnyard. Located at 97th and Main, Joe Harris the owner denotes much of the clubs success by catering to the older crowd, not just the young kids. He also cites blues and spirituality as key components of the atmosphere. There are different events held here for donations, remembrance, and blues jams.
The DVD concludes by ending credits, a complete list of all musicians and songs, and a compiling list of thank yous. Having never been exposed to a different culture of blues and performers such as this, this film was an eye opening experience.
The viewer will enjoy this journey not only as an educational piece, but also as a deeper appreciation for many sounds and styles of blues in South Los Angeles.
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