I have been on a number of cruises in my life but never one quite like this. I have been wined and dined, traveled to over 20 countries, and wiled away endless days just lying in the sun but have never been entertained by a seemingly endless array of blues artists.
Roger Naber has been a blues promoter for thirty years. He came up with the idea of a blues cruise where he would gather a number of blues artists, take over a cruise ship, and hopefully attract enough fans to make it worthwhile. It proved to be a wildly popular concept and the 2007 cruise featured 70 performances by 14 artists playing to a legions of fans who had signed up for the eight day adventure. Enter Robert Mugge who has produced fifteen music documentary films since 1991. Much of his work has concentrated on the blues and so he was a natural to chronicle this floating blues fest.
Deep Sea Blues presents twenty performances woven in between interviews and life aboard the ship. Performers such as Bobby Rush, Buckwheat Zydeco, Otis Clay, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Commander Cody, and Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials all strut their stuff.
The whole affair has a relaxed feel as the artists perform in a number of settings. They perform outside, inside, on land at a couple of stops, or just jam with each other. It has an intimate feel and is how the blues should be played, heard, and seen.
Some of the highlights include “We Make A Good Gumbo” by Tab Benoit, who leads off the disc with his brand of Creole swamp rock. Bobby Rush brings his harmonica and sexual innuendos to “Ride My Automobile.” Buckwheat Zydeco gives his usual eclectic performance on “Jackpot.” Old blues wailer Otis Clay sings the classic “A Nickel and A Nail.” The best track is a high energy performance by Lil’ Ed & Blues Imperial on “Icicles In My Meatloaf.” He exhibits a wonderful slide technique and the red fez only enhances his appeal.
Mugge has learned his craft well over the years. The film tells a story of the cruise and the blues. The performers are presented as human beings who happen to be able to play the most elemental of American music.
The DVD moves along smoothly and while you may not be able to smell the salt you can experience the music and the atmosphere. Deep Sea Blues, the cruise and the documentary, is an idea that works. All aboard!