Music Industry

From Ethnomusicology, Spring/Summer 2014
Published by the Society for Ethnomusicology by University of Illinois Press
Review by Robert W. Fry, Vanderbilt University

Troubadour Blues. Directed, produced and edited by Tom Weber. 2011. DVD, 91 minutes. Distributed by Tom Weber Films, LLC, website: http:// tomweberfilms.com.

The film Troubadour Blues follows the careers of modern day American folk musicians as they travel through the country and document their experiences and the stories of those they meet along the way. The film opens by linking musicians, including Peter Case, Chris Smither, Dave Alvin, Mary Gauthier, Garrison Starr, and Slaid Cleaves, to a long history of musical storytelling, most notably the American blues, a connection that is suggested in the title of the film and reinforced by the musicians who, in interviews, praise the honesty and realness of folk musicians such as John Lee Hooker, Bukka White, Mississippi John Hurt, and Ralph Stanley.

In the process, these musicians authenticate their own musical path through personal and artistic connections to these legends and their craft. Their honesty as folk singers is further reinforced in the opening scene, where the viewer is first introduced to Peter Case performing a song about homelessness. In the following montage, the song stays the same while the venue’s location and decor, and Case’s dress and hairstyle, continuously change, reinforcing not only themes of travel, but also the authenticity of the performer and his role as a travelling storyteller. Case supports this in the opening interview, where he states: “You’ve got to look inside your heart. You’ve got to look in the eyes of people around you, listen to their voices. You’ve got to find a song in there worth singing, and you’ve got to go wherever it goes.”

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You may not know this, but a film’s “star” rating on the IMDB database is an important factor for streaming video services like Netflix and Hulu, who use it to decide what films to license and for how long.

The process is simple and you don’t even need to have an IMDB account to do it. Simply go to the film’s IMDB page and click where it says “rate this film. Here’s a screen shot to help you.

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Color correction and final sound mix are coming along well, and Troubadour Blues will be off to the pressing plant before Labor Day. DVDs should be available by mid-September, on this site, at Filmbaby.com and Amazon.com, and of course from me at screenings.

Meanwhile, I’m starting to book screenings. Most of them will be small, anywhere from living rooms to church basements, but I’ve set up a Pittsburgh area premiere Tuesday, October 25, at the Hollywood Theater in Dormont, That’s in the South Hills, and pretty easy to get to for you non-Pittsburghers. I’ll post a map and directions later.

Troubadour Blues Pittsburgh premiere, Tuesday, Oct. 25, 8 pm, at the Hollywood Theater, 1449 Potomac Ave., Dormont

I’m hoping that this will be a fun night with surprise appearances by musical friends from the Pittsburgh area (and maybe one or two of the artists from the film). DVDs will be available at the special premiere price of $19.95 (cash and credit cards accepted). A suggested donation of $5.00 will help pay for the theater rental and expenses connected with the event.

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“Troubadour Blues” has been selected as the Opening Night film for the 2011 Buffalo International Film Festival. This will be the world premiere of the film as well as the official DVD release date.

Buffalo International Film Festival logo

Two-time Grammy nominee Peter Case, one of the main subjects of the film, will be on hand for the festivities, including a 6 p.m. reception and an Opening Night party after the 7:15 p.m. screening. The event will be held at The Screening Room, 4524 Bailey Ave., Amherst, NY (enter through the Arthur Murray Dance Studio).

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As I prepare to head off to the giant Folk Alliance conference and love-fest in Memphis, Tennessee, a quick update on what’s been going on in the world of Troubadour Blues.

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About the Film

Troubadour Blues is a feature-length documentary that explores the fascinating world of traveling singer-songwriters. We see them in a variety of situations: impromptu performances, concert stages, formal and informal interviews and songwriting sessions. This is a story that needs to be heard. In our media-saturated age of instant pop stardom, there is real danger that the tradition of the itinerant working musician -- the tradition of Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly -- is being diluted or lost. Troubadour Blues explores the hidden corners of our culture, where honest, authentic songs reflecting the human experience are still being made up and sung.

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