BLUEGRASS JOURNEY TO APPEAR ON PBS
Starting October 1, 2005 BLUEGRASS JOURNEY will be appearing on PBS stations nationally. To date, almost 200 stations have broadcast the program, with a combined reach of 85% of television viewing households in the US. The movie has aired in virtually all major markets and in many cases has been carried by all stations reaching a particular market, so may be viewed at multiple times in your area. Since each station independently determines when it will air the program, the show will be broadcast on different dates and times by different stations; interested viewers should check local listings.
2005 DVD of The Year Nominee
BLUEGRASS JOURNEY was nominated for the prestigious Jammy Award as 2005 DVD Of The Year. The 5th Annual Jammys Awards Show and All-Star Concert was held April 26, 2005 at Madison Square Garden in NYC. Founded as an alternative to mainstream award shows and produced by Relix Magazine, Jambands.com and producer/promoter Peter Shapiro, The Jammys is a celebration of the best in live improvisational music performance that pairs the brightest lights on the burgeoning jam music scene with stars from the pop, rock, reggae, gospel and jazz realms. In its first four years, The Jammys has become one of New York City ‘s premiere annual live music events and one of the top grassroots music events in the world. This year’s show was hosted by Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh.
Editor Kennedy’s new film wins big at Sundance
BLUEGRASS JOURNEY editor and co-director Nancy Kennedy’s follow-up film WHY WE FIGHT was awarded the 2005 American Documentary Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. Congratulations to Nancy! Her work is no less spectacular in BLUEGRASS JOURNEY.
BLUEGRASS JOURNEY available on DVD
BLUEGRASS JOURNEY is available on DVD and VHS. See SALES. BLUEGRASS JOURNEY T-Shirts, in a variety of sizes and colors, are also available for purchase; SALES.
The Big Screen – WHERE IT’S PLAYING
There are no presently scheduled theatrical showings of BLUEGRASS JOURNEY
Here is a list of where BLUEGRASS JOURNEY has already played.
Here is a link to a recent article that (other than a factual error in the very first words of the article – about Bill “and Charlie” Monroe forming the Blue Grass Boys!) gives a nice profile of Ruth & Rob – the filmmakers behind BLUEGRASS JOURNEY
“… casts a loving eye on players and fans alike… The music is exciting and the images are striking…” – Bluegrass Unlimited
“…brilliantly combines backstage footage, interviews,
and extended performances …a lovingly detailed portrait
of the music and those at the forefront of making it.”
- 2004 Florida Film Festival
“Stunning footage & musical brilliance… the perfect marriage of
marvelous cinema and music.” – The Nashville City Paper
“… a toe-tapping trip…” 2004 Filmfest DC
“… a genuine crowd-pleaser…” – Variety
“… exuberant, lovingly captured footage…”
- Washington City Paper
“… priceless performance footage and thoughtful interviews…”
- Poughkeepsie Journal
“… makes you think, teaches stuff, lifts the heart.”
- 2003 Williamstown Film Festival
One DVD experience that deserves special mention is a recent music film, Bluegrass Journey (Blue Stores Films BSF001), which my family and I came to enjoy so much that we watched it four or five times while our little two-channel home theater was up and running. Bluegrass Journey is a skillfully edited documentary that gives a real taste of what a modern bluegrass festival is all about, and it captures some of the finest performers in the field—including the Del McCoury Band, Tim O’Brien, Nickel Creek, Peter Rowan, and Tony Rice—with remarkably good camerawork and sound.
Entertainment industry news, articles, and box office charts – Variety.com
Tue, Apr. 13, 2004
A Bluegrass Films production. Produced by Ruth Oxenberg, Rob Schumer. Executive producer, Gill Holland. Directed by Ruth Oxenberg, Rob Schumer. Co-director, Nancy Kennedy.
With: The Del McCoury Band, Tim O’Brien, Chris Thile, Jerry Douglas, Peter Rowan, Tony Rice, Nickel Creek, Rhonda Vincent.
By RONNIE SCHEIB
From the outset, Ruth Oxenberg’s and Rob Schumer’s “Bluegrass Journey” makes it clear bluegrass is a musical form that lights its own fires. In docu’s virtuoso opening number, musicians trade lively riffs, their enthusiasm undampened by a virtual monsoon raging just beyond the makeshift stage where audience members soak up the music with the rain. Alternating between joyous performances and off-the-cuff commentaries by the musicians themselves — often supplemented with instrumental illustration, “Journey” has already proven itself a genuine crowd-pleaser at fests. Pic should resonate on music-themed cable, particularly given bluegrass’ Hollywood-spawned popularity following “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”
A good chunk of the docu takes place at the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival in Ancramdale, N.Y., a down-home outdoorsy weekend event where families camp out, impromptu ensembles jam in parking lots, and fans and performers mingle at mandolin workshops. Oxenberg and Schumer also travel to Louisville for the International Bluegrass Music Assn.’s annual convention and awards ceremony, where the relatively sterile hotel setting is offset by hang-loose all-night music sessions in lobby corners and open-door hotel suites.
Bluegrass is an anomaly in that it claims a dizzying array of musical influences (Gospel, Celtic, African) yet credits only a single source, Bill Monroe, with inventing the sound. In its sampling of talking-head subjects, pic manages to touch all the bases, history-wise.
In performance, however, concrete representations of various key bluegrass influences are catch as catch can, Oxenberg and Schumer opting for availability over balance. This leads to some odd, unwitting emphases: the Celtic strain comes through loud and clear, while the sole illustrated link to black music goes from Chuck Berry backward to Monroe; mandolins are madly plucked left, right and center, but banjos, usually strongly associated with bluegrass, are strangely muted.
At the same time, docu samples a broad spectrum of bluegrass styles, from traditional family groups like Del McCoury band to the more experimental strains of Nickel Creek, with certain standout musicians, like Jerry Douglas on guitar and Chris Thile on mandolin, and Tim O’Brien on a variety of instruments, sitting in on several sessions.
Tech credits are fine for a DV-shot docu, the sound quality particularly sharp.
Curtains to rise on 18th Filmfest
By GARY ARNOLD
Filmfest DC, pleasantly timed to coincide with the dogwoods and azaleas, while providing a homey alternative to the Cannes Film Festival in May, is poised to return for its 18th annual edition at several participating theaters…
To some extent, the festival always recommends itself as a first and last look at titles destined to make little or no impression on the theatrical marketplace. Years later, it can be gratifying to recall some festival selection that deserved a wider audience…
The single most satisfying title in an assortment of preview tapes was “Bluegrass Journey.” A fond summary of the annual Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival in upstate New York, “Bluegrass” is enhanced by superlative individual numbers from the Del McCoury Band, Nickel Creek and solo guitarist Tony Rice, who pulls a slow-tempo switch and mesmerizes everyone with a serene, contemplative instrumental.
The family feeling among bluegrass musicians is eloquently confirmed by Del McCoury and son Ronnie, among others. There’s also a genuinely hilarious guest appearance by Dolly Parton during a gala awards show. “Bluegrass Journey” is booked for showings at the American Film Institute Silver Theatre on April 23 and 24.
April 23–29, 2004
Talk About The Passion
…or don’t: Mel isn’t the only one keeping the faith. These films are about folks whose spirituality moves them, whether they believe in bluegrass, beings who live in rocks, or even the Big Guy Himself.
By TRICIA OLSZEWSKI
Documentarians Ruth Oxenberg and Rob Schumer know how to deliver on a title: Bluegrass Journey gives us lots and lots of bluegrass, and it is indeed played on the road. The action takes place mostly at the annual Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival in Ancramdale, N.Y., where the scene is basically music festival as cult. Though it offers the crappy weather conditions, artery-clogging food, and preponderance of shirtless wonders typical of sonic get-togethers, the most notable characteristic of Grey Fox is the utter dedication of its participants. Bluegrass Journey goes heavy on the performances, including turns by the Del McCoury Band, Tim O’Brien, and the “newgrass” Nickel Creek, whose way-animated wunderkind, Chris Thile, rocks a mandolin with all the blissed-out theatrics of a windmilling ax man. O’Brien also provides much of the film’s commentary, taking viewers back to the roots of bluegrass in the ’30s and ’40s and gushing that the Bill Monroe–pioneered music is “honest” and “from the heart.” The prevailing idea here is that once you start listening to and playing bluegrass, you’re hooked. (As one enthusiast gushes: “You’re a slave to it.”) After watching Oxenberg and Schumer’s exuberant, lovingly captured footage—including one scene of a purple-togged couple getting married at the fest—you’ll understand, even if you aren’t quite ready to get on the road to Glory Land yourself.
Bluegrass Journey is
one fine film about our
favorite festival, music
By Paul Della Valle, The Mothertown Monthly (Central Massachusetts)
On a cold evening in April, a bunch of us bluegrass aficionados were hanging out at our house when I popped a review copy of Bluegrass Journey into the DVD player and turned up the stereo. Immediately, everyone in the house ran into the living room as mandolin ace Chris Thile and dobro master Jerry Douglas started trading mindblowing licks. Soon images of the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival, held annually in July in the New York Berkshires filled the screen. I can t wait, Matt Carlen of Clinton said. Man, I just can t wait. Matt is a fine guitar player in a great band called Acoustic Planet and, like most everyone else in the room that night, a veteran camper/picker of at least a dozen Grey Fox Festivals. We all love Grey Fox the biggest bluegrass festival held in the Northeast each summer and we all love bluegrass music. After watching Bluegrass Journey for just a few minutes, it became obvious to us that Bluegrass Journey directors and producers Ruth Oxenberg and Rob Schumer feel the same way. Their documentary, shot mostly at Grey Fox in 2000, is a true labor of love and, more than that, a truly great film about this true and ever-growing American art form. The camera work, particularly during the on-stage performances, is outstanding and the sound quality of the DVD couldn t be better. When Del McCoury and his boys, the reigning kings of bluegrass, rip into Love is a Long Road there s not a foot in the world that could resist tapping. The Bluegrass Journey DVD is a must-buy, not just for bluegrass fans, but for all music fans. The documentary is as entertaining and as soul-satisfying as a great set at Grey Fox while the sun goes down behind the mountains, but it also does a great job of explaining what the music, its evolution and its current popularity is all about. Oxenberg and Schumer accomplish that through the performances and through the words of the players and fans, young and old. Guitar, fiddle, banjo, mandolin and the bass and harmony singing, Del s son Ronnie McCoury tells the camera. It s kind of like folk music in overdrive. … It s not commercial music and you re not selling a million records, but because you love it so much, that s the reason you do it. The film includes performances from a great range of what we call bluegrass today. There s a ripping version of Sitting on Top of the World by Bob Paisley and the Southern Grass, a band that still does it much like bluegrass inventor Bill Monroe was doing it back in the 40s. But because Monroe incorporated so many influences into his music Scottish, Irish, African, country, blues and gospel bluegrass is still growing into new and wonderful forms, kind of like pumpkin seeds thrown into a fertile compost pile. Particularly interesting among many other performances are Buddy Merriam and Back Roads singing Jimmy Martin s old chestnut Hit Parade of Love at their campsite at Grey Fox, Peter Rowan, Jerry Garcia s Old and in the Way buddy, renewing his Hobo Song with his Texas Trio along with Tony Rice and Douglas, and Thile s band Nickel Creek, mostly 20-something kids, tearing it up on Old Cold Coffee on the Dashboard. “It’s kind of like an old tree that has new branches on it, Pete Dr. Banjo Wernick, formerly of Hot Rize, says. You still hear groups like Dry Branch Fire Squad that have a direct connection to that old hillbilly sound. A lot of people want to hear that, it s their favorite kind of bluegrass. And then you hear a lot of the younger, long-haired bands incorporating rock and roll sounds into what they re doing. That s welcomed too. It is getting to be a bigger and bigger tree. Bluegrass Journey follows one of bluegrass’ most respected singer/songwriter/pickers, Tim O’Brien, from the Grey Fox stage, where he sings a selfpenned but traditional-sounding ballad with Darrell Scott, to a club in Knoxville where he performs with the Crossing, a band he put together after traveling to Ireland to explore the connection between bluegrass and its Celtic forbears. When O’Brien sings harmony with Karan Casey on What Does the Deep Sea Say?, a tune that Bill Monroe once recorded with his bother his brother Charlie Monroe, you’ld swear they were in a club in Dublin, not Tennessee. In addition to the performances shot at the club and the vast majority of scenes shot at Grey Fox, Bluegrass Journey also includes some footage from the International Bluegrass Music Association’s annual convention in Louisville. Those scenes show Rhonda Vincent and the Lonesome River Band playing on stage and musicians jamming in hotel rooms. That stuff is all fine, but the real highlights of the movie are all at Grey Fox on stage and in the camping areas where people pick all day and all night, socialize, drink beer and cook gourmet meals. The pagan wedding in 2000 that is shown in the movie was real strange, even for Grey Fox, but how could the filmmakers resist including it? Mostly Grey Fox and the other bluegrass festivals that thrive in the summertime are all about the music. As O Brien notes, bluegrass is most often played un-amplified, in kitchens and on back porches, and outdoors is its natural setting. The film is an absolute joy to watch. Bluegrass Journey should come with a warning sticker that says something like, Watching this movie may turn you into a bluegrass fanatic and cause you to buy a banjo and pop-up camper and spend your summer vacations traveling to Grey Fox and other bluegrass festivals. Bluegrass Journey is that good and bluegrass the everchanging American music and the ever-growing community that forms around it is that addictive. Bluegrass is a strong spice, O Brien notes. But once you get a taste for it, it kind of won t let you go. The Bluegrass Journey DVD sells for $24.95 and on VHS tape is $19.95. Write to Blue Store Films, 80 John Bay Road, Germantown NY 12526 or go online at www.bluegrassjourney com. The film will be shown and sold at the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival on July 15-18.
Word of mouth: click here to read what people are saying about BLUEGRASS JOURNEY
BLUEGRASS JOURNEY played at the Woodstock Film Festival in Woodstock, NY, September 17 – 21, 2003. The film was shown to a sold-out crowd as the opening night documentary on September 18 at the Bearsville Theater in Woodstock, and then showed again on September 20 at the Catskill Mountain Foundation Theater in Hunter, NY.
To open the Woodstock Film Festival, and in celebration of BLUEGRASS JOURNEY, Peter Rowan played to an enthusiastic crowd on September 17. Joining Peter for a stellar show were banjo legend Bill Keith and fiddle masters Jay Ungar and Larry Packer, as well as Tony Garnier (bass) and Jack Dwyer (mandolin). Opening for Peter were Buddy Merriam & Back Roads, who had the crowd “warmed-up” to a near frenzy. Peter as well as Buddy and his bandmates are among the many featured artists appearing in BLUEGRASS JOURNEY, and are shown in the film playing and talking about bluegrass.
Regional newspapers in the Hudson Valley of NY gave prominent coverage to the film, to bluegrass music, and to various events surrounding the film, such as Peter’s concert and the Woodstock Film Festival. Click here to read an article in The Poughkeepsie Journal about Peter, the kick-off concert for the Woodstock Film Festival, and BLUEGRASS JOURNEY. The Journal, a major Hudson Valley newspaper, also ran an article in association with showings of the film at Grey Fox (see below). Click here to read the article.
There also were front page articles about the film and the Woodstock Film Festival in Kingston, NY’s Daily Freeman. Click here to read them. Another article appeared in Hudson, NY’s Register-Star; click here to read it.
BLUEGRASS JOURNEY showed for 4 nights at the Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville, NY, from July 14 – 17, 2003 at the After Dark Music Festival, a film festival devoted entirely to films about music. Other films that showed in the festival included D.A. Pennebaker’s classic 1960’s portrait of the touring Bob Dylan, DON’T LOOK BACK; AMANDLA! A REVOLUTION IN FOUR-PART HARMONY; and STANDING IN THE SHADOWS OF MOTOWN. It also showed at the Williamstown Film Festival in Williamstown, MA on November 2, 2003 (where it was scheduled to play in the prestigious closing film slot, a spot occupied last year by the much-celebrated SPELLBOUND), and at the High Falls Film Festival in Rochester, NY on November 9, 2003 (where it was one of only seven films to have sold out, from a total of 30 plus… and the audience cheered as it finished). The film was a big hit at both of these events. It also showed at the Reel Music Film Festival in Portland, OR on Jan 11, 2004.
BLUEGRASS JOURNEY was seen at the Joe Val Bluegrass Festival in Framingham, MA (in 2004 & 2005); at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival in Missoula, MT, at the Wintergrass Bluegrass Festival, in Tacoma, WA; at the Florida Film Festival in Orlando, FL; at the East Lansing Film Festival at Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI; at the Film Fleadh Festival in New York, NY; at the Crossroads Film Festival in Jackson, MS; at the Palm Beach International Film Festival in Palm Beach, FL; at the Boulder Theater in Boulder, CO; and at the Washington, DC International Film Festival, where it played at the wonderful Silver Theater of the American Film Institute (see above for some reviews in Washington papers). It also recently played at the Belcourt Theater in Nashville, TN; at the Bonnaroo Music Festival in Manchester, TN; the Wind Gap Bluegrass Festival, Wind Gap, PA; the River of Music Bluegrass Festival of the International Bluegrass Music Museum, Owensboro, KY; the Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago; the High Mountain Hay Fever Bluegrass Festival, Westcliffe, CO; at Upstate Films in Rhinebeck, NY; at the 2004 Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival, in Ancramdale, NY, where much of the film was shot in the year 2000; at Time & Space Limited in Hudson, NY; at the Linda Norris Auditorium of WAMC in Albany, NY; at the Podunk Bluegrass Festival in East Hartford, CT; and at the opening night of the Maine International Film Festival, in Waterville, ME. It also recently screened at the Rome International Film Festival, Rome, GA (where it was in competition for the Best American Documentary Feature Award); at the Atlantic Film Festival in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada; at the Mt. Shasta International Film Festival in Mount Shasta, CA; at IndieMemphis Film Festival in Memphis, TN; at the Hot Springs Film Festival in Hot Springs, AR; at the Leeds International Film Festival in Leeds, England (the European premier); at The Makor-Steinhardt Center of the 92nd Street-Y in New York City; and at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, NY.
BLUEGRASS JOURNEY had its World Premier at the 2003 Maui Film Festival in Maui, Hawaii. It screened on Saturday, June 14 at the Maui Digital SkyDome. Reports from several of those in attendance were that it looked and sounded terrific.
View of Maui Film Festival at Wailea
Here’s one comment received from Maui: “Aloha, just wanted to tell you congratulations on making what I believe to be the best film on bluegrass ever! I saw the World Premier at the Maui Film Festival, and LOVED it. Playing bluegrass and folk-gospel for over 40 years – let me know when the dvds are out! God bless, Pastor Harry”
BLUEGRASS JOURNEY also showed at the 2003 International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) annual World of Bluegrass event in Louisville, KY. It showed twice, once to the trade membership and again, later during the week, at Fan Fest. The Producers/Directors of the film had a booth at IBMA and met attendees and discussed the film.
As with Grey Fox, these showings were especially fun since a large part of the film was shot at IBMA’s World of Bluegrass in 2000 (and some in 2002). If you were there, you might be in the film!
Other news: a nicely done interview with BLUEGRASS JOURNEY producers/directors Ruth Oxenberg and Rob Schumer appeared in the summer 2003 edition of About Town, a local newspaper published in the area in which they live. Check it out!
Be sure to check back here soon for announcements of other showings and other news.