Deep Sea Blues / All Jams on Deck
directed by Robert Mugge
starring Taj Mahal, Johnny Winter, Tab Benoit, Tommy Castro
You would think the sound on a cruise ship back deck while underway might…suffer… But this half documentary/half sales pitch takes us on the “Blues Cruise” and the sound is pretty tight. It’s a week or so bumming around the cruise circuit with 20 or 30 top name blues players, all presenting continuous jams, concerts, and cooking lessons. The weather is surprisingly cooperative, no tropical waves or even afternoon build up rains on this blessed boat; it’s all in tune, on time music.
There are two elements to this documentary: clips of individual shows, typically on or two full tracks long, and then there’s a related film called All Blues on Deck. Here we focus on themed jams. Director Robert Mugge gets it all down on film with background color from artists, technicians and fans; in the past decade or so he’s stacked up at least two dozen docs on various slices and dices of soul music from Sun Ra to Zydeco. I can’t say there a bad track here, the jams range from smoking yet restrained (Elvin Bishop and Johnny Winter) to New Orleans (Coco Montoya) to blazing hot (Tommy Castro). Occasional interviews with musicians allow speculation on “where it all began”, but that minimized.
The Deep Sea Blues portion is more individual artist oriented, here the music is interspersed with some history of the Blues Cruise, and its big attraction is offering late night jams the passengers can join. We explore the technical aspects of getting good sound in the middle of the ocean and then we get a cooking segment hosted by Taj Mahal. Here’s my takeaway: while you may never actually get to jam with Elvin Bishop you can’t rule out the chance; and if your going to pop for a big ship cruise there might as well be something beyond bingo an seasickness to entertain you. But if you can’t afford the boat, I recommend this DVD. You just have to mix your own drinks.