Fabulous doc about Chris Strachwitz–the founder of Arhoolie Records–and his passionate love for American Roots Music.
Combines classic performance footage with great interviews plus snippets of youngsters bringing these old traditions to new generations.
FYI, co-director Chris Simon is the widow of Les Blank (to whom film is dedicated) & this helps account for the great access Chris & her co-director Maureen Gosling had along the way. (JLH: 4/5)
Click HERE for our FF2 Haiku.
Joyous documentary celebrates the life of Chris Strachwitz. Strachwitz was born in Silesia in 1931 when it was still part of Germany. At the end of WWII, he emigrated to the USA–something he could do because he had American relatives–thus escaping just before Silesia became part of Iron Curtain Poland. I don’t mean to inject too much psychology into a life well lived, but perhaps his embrace of “Authentic Americana” can be traced in part to his feeling of personal salvation?
Whatever! Strachwitz came of age in Eisenhower America, but without the prejudices of the time. As he tells it, he really didn’t understand why he couldn’t enter a restaurant and eat at the same table with his musicians when they traveled in the Rural South. But his musicians accepted it so he accepted it. His goal was to bring their music to the world and he did.
Along with Alan Lomax (who died in 2002), Strachwitz is now universally recognized as one of people who preserved “Roots Music.” We all owe them a great debt; without Lomax and Strachwitz, many of our greatest American cultural treasures might well have been lost forever.
To tell their story co-directors Maureen Gosling and Chris Simon meld their interviews with Strachwitz (= first person) with terrific interviews about Strachwitz (= third person) from the likes of well-known “talking heads” including Ry Cooder, Taj Mahal, Bonnie Raitt, Michael Doucet of BeauSoleil, and Davia Nelson of NPR’s Kitchen Sisters.
Punctuating the chatter–fabulous as it is–are innumerable musical sequences with stars long gone as well as snippets of young performers who are bringing these old traditions to new generations. The on screen musical sequences include Bluegrass/Hillbilly Grooves, Cajun/Zydeco Grooves, Delta Blues/R&B Grooves, and Tex-Mex/Tejano Grooves. In the interview segments, Strachwitz also mentions Klezmer, Greek, and Gypsy music. As the founder of Arhoolie Records, Strachwitz was in a race against time to collect as much as he could. BRAVO!
I was a huge fan of the HBO series Treme and I cried real tears the night I watched HBO’s final episode. This Ain’t No Mouse Music provides some consolation to Treme fans like me. American Roots Music has a life of its own, and because of visionaries like Chris Strachwitz it will live on long after all of us are gone.
Top Photo: Chris Strachwitz just knows great music when he hears it!
Middle Photo: Big Mama Thornton! Ya gotta love her!
Bottom Photo: Chris started his odyssey by going to Texas in 1964 to search for Mance Lipscomb.
Photo Credits: Sage Blossom Productions
Q: Does This Ain’t No Mouse Music pass the Bechdel Test?
Often a hard question in the case of documentaries, but in this case I am going to say yes. Me, I don’t think two male directors would have used so many female voices in their final cut.