The Blues House: A Documentary (Avalon Films)
The Blues House is about the search for two forgotten blues singers, carried out in Mississippi during one of the most violent periods of the civil rights movement.
1964 was a year of transition. The Beatles landed in America. Soul became a fixture on the airwaves. Lyndon Johnson began his War on Poverty and resolved to escalate the fight in Vietnam. And in June, hundreds of college students, eager to join the civil rights movement, traveled to Mississippi, starting what would be known as Freedom Summer.
That same month, two carloads of young men visited the Mississippi Delta. Strangely, neither party was aware of the other, though each had come on the same errand: to find a singer and coax him out of retirement. One group was after Son House, the other Skip James. Thirty years before, House and James had recorded some of the most memorable blues of their era, but now they seemed lost to time.
Finding them would not be easy. There were few clues to their whereabouts, and it was not even known for certain if they were still alive. And Mississippi, that summer, was a tense and dangerous place. With hundreds on their way to teach in freedom schools and work on voter registration, the Ku Klux Klan and police force of many towns–often one and the same entity–vowed that Freedom Summer would not succeed. Churches were bombed, shotguns blasted into cars and homes. And just as the searches for Son House and Skip James were drawing to a close, three people were murdered.
The Blues House follows the music’s unlikely path from the plantations and commissaries of the South to the festival circuit, concert hall and coffeehouse. The film ponders questions of race and identity highly relevant to our own day. And it pays tribute to a pioneering generation of musicians. With a wealth of interviews plus all-new performances by Lucinda Williams, Valerie June, Chris Thomas King, Jimbo Mathus, and more, The Blues House is sure to inspire debate as well as renew appreciation for one of America’s oldest and most vital musical forms: the blues.