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film review

Musician Bobby Rush at Club Ebonyno credit info

The song I Am the Blues, recorded by Muddy Waters, concerns hard times and their heavy musical articulation. It is about the wounds and the mistreatment and the burden of the players who express the suffering. The film I Am the Blues finds the rough-cut music and the rougher-cut life, in Mississippi and Louisiana, where an appreciation for the dying art of gutbucket blues hangs on. Montreal filmmaker Daniel Cross is unobtrusive, letting the cameras roll as obscure players such as Jimmy (Duck) Holmes and more known figures such as Bobby Rush talk candidly about the blood of the music and the stomping grounds of the form. Perhaps inspired by an art-house indie drama such as Beasts of the Southern Wild as much as the traditional blues-highway doc The Road to Memphis, Cross's light-handed (but too long) film doesn't romanticize or overcomprehend, choosing instead to concentrate on life's non-choices. "You find out what it isn't," an old interviewee says, "not what it is." Brad Wheeler

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