Let's say you're like me—cannot play any musical instrument and can't, as the saying goes, "Carry a tune in a bucket." But, like me, you can be a curious consumer of all types of music. Most important, whether you're like me or not, three of the Crossroads Film Festival's documentaries are finely wrought pieces for your enjoyment and edification.
"Raise the Roof" The trials and tribulations as well as, ultimately, the joys of the creation of Glor, a center dedicated to traditional Irish music in County Clare, fill all 83 minutes. Once you've witnessed the tenacity of project director Katie Verling as she deals with setbacks, complete with her liberal use of the F-word and, at one particularly stressful time expressing a desire to be on intravenous Valium, you'll understand her single-minded dedication. All she wants is a proper home for the music she and many others consider an Irish treasure.
"Living the Blues" From the first notes and poignant black and white photographs, you can see, feel and hear the blues. Eight sections logically take you from "Learning to Play" through "Hard Times" to "Home," and you learn from some of the best blues artists the South has to offer—Etta Baker, Cora Mae Bryant, Precious Bryant, Frank Edwards, Macavine Hayes, Algia Mae Hinton, Taj Mahal, Rufus McKenzie, Neal Pattman and Cootie Stark. Being able to list their names here fills me with pride.
From McKenzie, you'll learn that what he calls "wooming the blues" helped the animals to work in the fields. And I always thought they sang to help pass the time as they performed Herculean tasks. And finally, you'll understand that the blues can get you to "thinking so many miles away you just feel like travelin'—you just wanta hit the highway."
Beautifully filmed with such fine sound that you won't realize 45 minutes has passed, you'll be ready to say, paraphrasing, Hayes, as long as I live, I'll be loving the blues.
"Bluegrass Journey" As much as you might be tempted to do otherwise, give earnest consideration to "Bluegrass Journey," a splendid primer of great visual and musical interest for the curious, the open-minded and the already-sold-on-bluegrass. I say this because many consider bluegrass simply harmonies in high, twangy nasal voices to the accompaniment of banjos, fiddles, guitars and mandolins. Well, it is that and so very much more. Give yourself this 86 minutes to find out if you need bluegrass to join the other music already in your heart, soul, and mind.
Set mostly at the New York's yearly Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival, the film shows you that this music is really a way of life. Bluegrass musicians play—not just snippets—but entire songs, smiling at the sounds created by their flying fingers. Every-day people jam or just sit and listen, smiles playing across their faces, too, in the shelter of umbrellas during a downpour or outside in the sunshine. MusicianTim O'Brien sums it up best—art gives you an excuse to sometimes be quiet and pay attention to something and maybe, in the guise of entertainment, think about the important things in life.