This is a documentary film about an elder statesmen of the blues; an “original”, a representative of the generation of men and women who have spent their lives dedicated to playing the Blues.
Most haven’t ever supported themselves solely by their music. This goes beyond just music; they are a legacy of a culture and musical style that will never be able to be repeated. Most have lived their lives with a love for this wonderful music and in many cases never receiving the notoriety that their white counterparts received.
Little Sammy Davis personifies this story. Sammy is a seventy-two year old harp player from Winona, Mississippi; a bluesman in the tradition of the great Jimmy Reed, Howling Wolf and Muddy Waters.
We explore where he’s come from, how he’s lived his life and listen to the music he plays. Perhaps most importantly, try to understand how the blues has become an American art form.
This is the last opportunity to show who these people are, why we love them and what we owe to them. They have the unique capability to capture our imaginations, move us emotionally and take us places we fear, love and desire.
You cannot help but love Sammy - Arlen
Jury Selection London Film Festival
Jury Selection Woodstock Intern’l Film Festival
Audience Recognition Award -AFI/SILVERDOCS Discovery Channel Documentary Film Festival
FILM REVIEW from LONDON....
Blues & Rhythm Magazine
FILM REVIEW from the London Film Festival
“Little Sammy Davis”
Also in this double bill was a shorter (25) minute film by Arlen Tarlofsky about Little Sammy Davis. Most people I’ve spoken to who attended the screening had never heard of Davis, but then, they don’t read B&R (see articles on Davis and on Rockin’ Records, as well as a slot in Pete Lowry’s column, in this magazine at various times over the last couple of years). To be honest, I’d recommend this even more highly than the film about Muddy- it’s a pleasure from start to finish.
Davis plays his harmonica unaccompanied with acoustic guitar, with a full electric band, and with his nose. He sounds great, whatever he’s doing- a full, beautiful tone, a straightforward, uncluttered style, and deep blues all the way.
He also gets plenty of opportunity to talk, about his life, his music, his take on the blues. Others talk about him as well, including Fred Scribner, in whose band Sammy Davis currently plays (some of Scribner’s contributions raised a few laughs from the audience, and not necessarily when he was trying to be funny). I do like Tarlofsky’s style- he favours natural, full body shots over talking heads, a relaxed, chatty context rather than formal interviews. There’s a particularly engaging session (with short sections cut into the film at various points) where Sammy eats steak and eggs in a cafe, nattering to some friends and charming fellow-diners with his stories and songs. These days when it’s much more fashionable to talk up the blues singer as a tough, dangerous, man with a shady, violent past, more interested in moonshine than music, it was refreshing to get an alternative angle. Sammy Davis comes across as a friendly, decent guy, who credits his continuing ability to blow the harp to healthy living. He integrates his harp playing with his singing, not just leaving it for introductions and solos, he tells us- not like so many other harp players who have squandered their talents - and their wind- on smoking and drinking.
(These films were screened as part of the Regus London Film Festival, National Film Theatre