SYDNEY FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW: THIS AIN’T NO MOUSE MUSIC

THIS AIN’T NO MOUSE MUSIC review for the Sydney Film Festival by Salty Kernel, Andrew Brusentsev

THIS AIN’T NO MOUSE MUSIC is part of the Sydney Film Festival and will be screening on THUR June 6 at 8pm and SAT June 8 at 1145am at Dendy Opera Quays– tickets can be purchased HERE. Be sure to check out the entire program for the SYDNEY FILM FESTIVAL HERE.

Wow so many documentaries about this thing we all call music coming out, it really is quite a treat for a music nerd like myself. This particular movie was an extra joy to review….you read it here folks – this is anything but an impartial review.

 

THIS AIN'T NO MOUSE MUSIC - REVIEW FOR THE SFF
THIS AIN’T NO MOUSE MUSIC – REVIEW FOR THE SFF

 

The movie introduces us to Chris Strachwitz, the founder of legendary record company, Arhoolie Records. In 1947, during the beginnings of the Cold War, he was a teenager from an incredibly privileged German aristocratic family he fled from Germany to the United States. There was nothing unusual about this story, millions did it and perhaps Chris would have been just another one of those hard working migrants looking for a new life and a new dream but it was here that his true calling was revealed.

From the moment he set foot in the States Chris fell completely fanatically passionately in love with the unique and oft overlooked sounds of true American roots music. Not content just to hear the “pale” imitations of it on the radio, what he calls “mouse music” (not genuine, you know Mickey Mouse) he travelled from California through Texas, the backwaters of Louisiana, through the Bible Belt, to Virginia and anywhere where he could chase not only artists that he believed were the cultural backbone of Western music but also chasing obscure records he believed needed preservation.

 

THIS AIN'T NO MOUSE MUSIC - REVIEW FOR THE SFF
THIS AIN’T NO MOUSE MUSIC – REVIEW FOR THE SFF

 

To introduce these passions to his friends he founded Arhoolie Records and through his impeccable nose for what he considered true music, and his abilities in recording, laid down on wax some of the most important records of the late 50’s and 60’s. These are records that The Beatles, The Stones, Dylan, Joplin would consume and then use their grooves to define their own ground breaking styles.

For Chris there was no need for a studio, he preferred to record his musicians in their own environment: small dive bars, back porches, hoe downs, cookouts, swamp juke joints or family gatherings, sometimes even on the street. If the music was not “mouse”, if it spoke to Chris he would record it no matter what the style, no matter what the circumstance.

We see and hear performances by legends such as Clifton Chenier, Mance Lipscomb, Big Mama Thornton, Flaco Jimenez to a new find for me, fiddler Michael Doucet, I will leave it there to allow you, the viewer, to enjoy in the rare delights of some incredible performances. But this isn’t about music from a bygone era, in the later stages of the movie we are introduced to new young artists that are keeping their crafts alive. In the Appalachian mountains we meet a young band “No Speed Limit” and their new take on Bluegrass is simply awesome. What is even more exciting is the deep, often decades long, connections that Chris has with these musicians who are now his family and friends.

 

THIS AIN'T NO MOUSE MUSIC - REVIEW FOR THE SFF
THIS AIN’T NO MOUSE MUSIC – REVIEW FOR THE SFF

 

I enjoyed the easy going attitude of this documentary, the two directors Chris Simon and Maureen Gosling do a superb job of allowing the music to take centre stage, none of it seems precanned or forced, their natural style is a credit to both of them. From the initial interviews with Chris we quickly see that he is a complete eccentric but also a man with no false modesty, nor aware of his cult like status. We get to meet his friends, musicians like Ry Cooder and Bonnie Raitt to name two big stand outs for whom Arhoolie Records sent them on their own ground breaking musical journeys.

The amazing sounds of jazz, blues, norteno, zydeco, tex mex, hillbilly, raw rock and bluegrass is a joy for people with an open mind. After awhile you forget you are watching a movie and are just swept up in each and every performance and the story of these remarkable musicians, most of whom are content to remain nameless, just plying their culture to keep its importance alive.

 

THIS AIN'T NO MOUSE MUSIC - REVIEW FOR THE SFF
THIS AIN’T NO MOUSE MUSIC – REVIEW FOR THE SFF

 

Now I am going to stop writing and go out and find another list of names to obsess over, then kick back with a beer and listen to Big Mama’s version of “Hound Dog” on full blast maybe it can drown out some of the “mouse”. For me a perfect music documentary and in todays society, important.

 

5 Pops