DESPERATE MAN BLUES
Joe Bussard has been a devoted lover of what he calls the roots of American music – blues, bluegrass and jazz – ever since he was a kid. He has more or less single handedly saved thousands of recordings to ensure the music doesn’t fade into oblivion. Now middle aged, Bussard talks about the music, plays the music and stomps to the music.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Edward Gillan’s fascinating story of Joe Bussard’s obsession for early blues & bluegrass demonstrates that anyone passionate about anything makes good copy, as they say in newspapers. It’s also true for film. Bussard looked down on rock n’ roll as soon as he passed his fourth birthday. “Rock’s the cancer of music…”
In his middle age, he reckons anyone who liked it was childish. This is what helped drive his lifelong passion for what he calls the roots of American music, mostly produced in the 20s and 30s, taking in raw bluegrass to some hot jazz of the 30s. Far from a hobby, it’s a lifelong pursuit. His vast collection of maybe 25,000 carefully stacked 78s contains real gems and in pretty good nick has been gathered from folks in remote holes of America’s midwest and south, ranging from cowboys recorded in the paddock in El Paso, to the studio recordings of the most successful artists of the genre.
There’s the likes of John Lee Hooker, Jimmie Rodgers (his favourite singer), Hank Williams, William McTell, James Arnold, the one and only copy of a Black Patti - and heaps more. A cigar jutting permanently from his lips, Bussard can’t help but jiggle to his records. Driven by the combination of the energy of the music and Bussard’s own volatility, the film plays like a jaunty mix of character study and guided musical tour, saved from repetition by astute editing and some fun archival footage.
As his daughter points out, Bussard’s collection has enormous socio-historic value. But hang the history, dig the music - and if you dig music, you’ll dig this, man.
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DESPERATE MAN BLUES (G)
CAST: Documentary featuring Joe Bussard
PRODUCER: Edward Gillan
DIRECTOR: Edward Gillan
SCRIPT: Edward Gillan
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Ray Argall
EDITOR: Julie-Anne De Ruva
MUSIC: various artists
PRODUCTION DESIGN: n/a
RUNNING TIME: 52 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Edward Gillan
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 31, 2003