ASHLAND COFFEE & TEA GETS ITS CLOSE-UP
IN “TROUBADOUR BLUES” MUSIC DOCUMENTARY
Ashland Coffee and Tea, the listening room near the railroad tracks in
downtown Ashland, VA, feels like a second home to filmmaker Tom Weber,
whose documentary Troubadour Blues screens there Wednesday, Dec. 5.
“So many important scenes in the movie happened in that room,” says
Weber, a Pennsylvanian who spent 10 years collecting material for the feature-length
film. “I filmed Peter Case there on my very first weekend of shooting, back
in October 2002. I got the film’s title from a song that Mark Erelli had just written
when he opened for Chris Smither that following spring.”
The old white piano and stuffed armadillo that once graced the stage at AC&T appear in the
background of many shots, and viewers can follow the transformation of the
room through several remodelings. Among the performers captured live in
Ashland are Smither (“No Love Today” and “Crocodile Man”), Mary Gauthier
(“Camelot Motel” and “Wheel Inside a Wheel”), and Slaid Cleaves (“Keychain”).
Richmond’s Charles “King” Arthur, who performs with Cleaves in the film,
will be playing a full-length solo show immediately after a 30-minute preview of
Troubadour Blues. Arthur is a talented multi-instrumentalist and songwriter who
has appeared frequently on the AC&T stage, either by himself, backing touring
artists like Cleaves and Wayne Hancock, or playing in Virginia-based bands like
Chez Roue and Johnny Hott’s Piedmont Souprize.
Case, the Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter and former member of
influential bands the Nerves and the Plimsouls, is the central character in the
film. We see him teaching a songwriting class, doing a radio interview, signing
autographs for fans and of course performing live onstage. His recovery from
major heart surgery figures prominently in the film’s final scene.
“Peter was so generous with his time, and his story is so representative of
the musician’s life as people imagine it,” says Weber. “He dropped out of school
in Buffalo, rode a train to California, sang on the streets of San Francisco, started
a band, got a record deal, then went solo and played on the road for 25 years.
“Peter has played every kind of gig that you can imagine. He’s a unique
voice, one of the best of a generation.”
Other singer-songwriters appearing in Troubadour Blues are Dave Alvin,
Amy Speace, Sam Baker, Tracy Grammer, Gurf Morlix and Garrison Starr. The
film has screened at important festivals such as Folk Alliance International,
SXSW and the Americana Music Association.
Weber has traveled nearly 20,000 miles in the past year, booking
screenings in bars, coffee houses, theaters, libraries, art galleries, trailer parks
and, once, a yoga studio.
“I’m a guy in a car traveling thousands of miles to put on a show, just like
the musicians in my film,” says Weber. “Only I carry around a projector and
screen instead of a guitar. But it’s the same process, connecting with people oneon-
one and building an audience.”
(Press Release, Oct. 19, 2012)