TRUE DELTA is a cinematic snapshot of the Blues tradition that remains vibrant in and around Clarksdale, Mississippi–the renowned birthplace of the Blues. The film captures the excitement of festival audiences that come from all over the world and the sweaty bravado and skill of the Blues musicians and singers on stage. Additional interviews with church leaders, Blues historians, and local business owners show how intertwined the Blues is with the religious, economic, and cultural life of the Delta region. Most compelling are the interviews with musicians and singers from the ages of 10 to 90, showing their commitment, their struggles, and their deep passion for the Blues. James “Super Chikan” Johnson, James Lewis “T-Model” Ford, Grammy award-winner James “Jimbo” Mathus, Guitarist/Vocalist Bill “Howl-N-Madd” Perry and the late “Big Jack” Johnson are some of the musicians you will meet in TRUE DELTA. 37 minutes.
“I come from a long line of moonshiners,” laughs Bill “Howl-N-Madd” Perry, adding, “I have a lot of bad habits, but drinking is not one of them.” Growing up picking cotton in Mississippi hill country, Billy Joe Perry moved to Chicago to make a new life for himself. But his real success came when he returned 40 years later as “Howl-N-Madd,” an engaging bluesman devoted to his music and his family. Candid interviews capture the captivating personality of this talented blues musician and also reveal the struggles integral to his compelling life story. Perry’s determination to rise above the constraints of southern poverty and racism and to live a life entertaining others through his music has inspired audiences across America, in Asia, and Europe. The film celebrates Perry’s musical career by highlighting magnetic live performances, from deep in Mississippi up to the Terra Blues Club in New York City, featuring Bill, his son Bill Perry, Jr., and his daughter, Sharo Perry. And it shows how Pauline Perry, who is unflagging in her devotion to her husband, embodies the spirit of the song he wrote for her after 45 years of marriage, “Delta Women,” who, as Perry sings, “know how to shake that thing.” (27 minutes)
“From the Crossroads to the White House” is a delightful and touching look at the work and music of the award-winning Delta Blues Museum Band, and follows several members as they journey from Clarksdale to the nation’s capital to capture a top award. The film is one in a series of documentaries about the legacy of the Delta blues from Lee Quinby and Erickson Blakney of the True Delta Project. The DBM’s Arts and Education program, which grew out of another started by the late Johnnie “Mister Johnnie” Billington, continues to provide blues musicians for Clarksdale’s dynamic live music scene and the world. 26 minutes.
“Enriching Destiny” is a moving tribute to Sister Teresa Shields and her three decades of service in the Delta. By founding the Jonestown Family Center for Education and Wellness, Sister Teresa established an array of opportunities to enhance the community of Jonestown, Mississippi. As she returns to Seattle, Washington, to undertake a new ministry, her legacy will continue to enrich Jonestown for many years to come. 24 minutes.
A group of dedicated teachers and students spread hope in the Mississippi Delta by cultivating the arts and a sense of community in an after-school program called Griot Arts. Inspired by the Griots of West Africa, they impart love and respect for the music and culture of Clarksdale, while nurturing a sense of responsibility for carrying on tradition and forging new ways of strengthening civic bonds. Together they embody griot grit. 28 minutes.
“Respect The Kid” unfolds through Mr. Johnnie Billington’s guitar and song performance of “Everyday I’ve Got the Blues.” In the interview, Mister Johnnie tells how he learned to play the guitar around the age of 12 and then taught other boys and eventually began making money playing in juke joints. He describes how he moved back to Mississippi and began teaching kids in the area how to play. The film highlights the essential element of his teaching method, encapsulated in the opening quote: “Respect the kid and the kid will respect you.”
This short documentary recounts the escapades of famed blues musician, the late James “T-Model” Ford. The interview took place when the “Ladies’ Man” was 90 years old and married to Miss Stella. He recalls himself as a young man, playing guitar and attracting women from all over the world. Musical tribute by GravelRoad Band.