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Deep Sea Blues

Deep Sea Blues

Director: Robert Mugge

Cast: Roger Naber, Judy Alexander, Bobby Rush


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When most music fans think about seeing a blues show, they imagine a smoke-filled nightclub in a rough neighborhood, not a luxurious ocean liner sailing to the Caribbean or vacation spots in the Pacific. But since 1992, Roger Naber has been booking and producing "the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise," a series of vacation packages in which blues fans can enjoy an ocean


When most music fans think about seeing a blues show, they imagine a smoke-filled nightclub in a rough neighborhood, not a luxurious ocean liner sailing to the Caribbean or vacation spots in the Pacific. But since 1992, Roger Naber has been booking and producing "the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise," a series of vacation packages in which blues fans can enjoy an ocean voyage along with live entertainment from world-renowned blues, R&B and zydeco artists. While offering fine music in a beautiful setting, the "Blues Cruises" have also given artists the opportunity to interact with their fans in a way they can't when playing clubs or theaters (comparing notes and sometimes jamming with them after hours), and allows listeners to get to know one another, striking up friendships among like-minded listeners. Documentary filmmaker Robert Mugge, well known for his cinematic portraits of respected musicians, offers fans a look at the "Blues Cruise" phenomenon with the movie Deep Sea Blues, which chronicles a 2006 cruise featuring performances from Bobby Rush, Taj Mahal, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Otis Clay, Lil' Ed and the Blues Imperials, Buckwheat Zydeco, Tab Benoit,Watermelon Slim and many more.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Nathan Southern
Writer-director-producer Robert Mugge reasserts his status as a music documentary pioneer with the spectacular 2007 effort Deep Sea Blues. Mugge's subject, on this occasion, is Legendary's all-star Rhythm & Blues Cruise - a perennial at-sea tour on a luxury liner that finds a veritable who's who of musical performers engaging in a week-long series of performances, accompanied by hundreds of fans. Mugge and his team joined the cruisers for the January 2007 event -which took passengers to such Caribbean locales as St. Barth's, St. John and Grand Turk - and documented much of what transpired on board. This subject may seem narrow and specific on the surface, but Mugge wisely uses the event as a springboard to broader concerns. In particular, he shows how Rhythm and Blues Cruise proprietors Roger Naber and Judy Alexander have specifically designed the event as a unique and exciting tool to foster and further develop numerous aspects of blues culture. The film's candid interviews (featuring such performers as Bobby Rush, Tab Benoit, and others) establish, with complete clarity, the unique sense of camaraderie inherent in the blues community that emerges aboard each voyage. This theme culminates with a number of surprising and deeply moving revelations in the film, notably the insight that former Blues Cruise patrons have begun providing food and lodging in their homes to iconic musicians they've met on board the ship, and the disclosure that when one minor performer lacked the necessary funds to join the cruise one year, his fans and colleagues pitched in to pay for his ticket. Mugge also uses his central subject to explore the complex and multifaceted nature of the blues itself. Within the framework of the cruise, the film succinctly and powerfully defines the blues as a form of personal expression, an idea evinced particularly strongly through performers such as Earl Thomas, whose overwhelming rendition of "Maybe in the Next Life" seems akin to a veritable outpouring of raw emotion on stage. The program then draws back to examine blues's relationship to neighboring genres. The performers on hand actually cover a surprising number of styles - not simply traditional blues, but Creole (Buckwheat Zydeco), Chicago soul and gospel (Otis Clay), southern soul/blues (Bobby Rush) and much more. Without ever saying so openly, Mugge uses the juxtaposition of these different styles to map out their interconnectedness within the American musical landscape, and shows how traces of each can be found aboard the boat, as a relative of traditional blues. To a commendable degree, the film's variations - both in terms of varied genre, and more specifically, in terms of the varied personalities of the musicians themselves (particularly Leon Blue, who lights up the screen with a wordless boogie-woogie piano number, and the incredibly funny Taj Mahal, who hosts a cooking event before an on-board audience), keep things alive and hopping. As these segments are presented, they form a veritable cornucopia - a multicolored carnival of life that efficiently communicates the sheer pleasure of spending seven days on board the ship. Stylistically, the performance segments cut back and forth between intense, emotionally overwhelming close-ups of the players and wide shots from the perspective of spectators, that - when combined - uniquely convey the experience of being on the vessel. In the film's most affecting segments - and there are many - Mugge lingers on specific performers for extended periods and lets the emotion of the tracks build to an overwhelming level. In the final analysis, all of these elements blend together into a fluid and electrifying tapestry - not simply an homage to the cruise itself on Mugge's part, but an intimate understanding of everything it represents for players and fans, and a masterful ability to communicate that to the audience.

Product Details

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Mug Shot Productions
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Special Features

All Jams on Deck, Mugge's 96-minute film about blues jamming, produced by Mugge and Diana Zelman on Roger Naber's October 2010 Blues Cruise to the Mexican Riviera, featuring music by Elvin Bishop, Marcia Ball, Tommy Castro, Johnny & Edgar Winter, Kim Wilson, Lee Oskar, Commander Cody, Coco Montoya, Lowrider Band, Larry McCray, Rick Estrin, Jimmy Thackery, Sista Monica Parker, John Nemeth, Steve Berlin, Vasti Jackson, Leon Blue, Rev. Billy C. Wirtz, Eden Brent, Mike Schermer, and Kelly Hunt. Smooth sailing, indeed!

Related Subjects

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Roger Naber Participant
Judy Alexander Participant
Bobby Rush Actor
Buckwheat Zydeco Actor
Commander Cody Band Actor
Watermelon Slim Actor
Earl Thomas Actor
Fabulous Thunderbirds Actor
Taj Mahal Participant
Otis Clay Actor
Leon Blue Actor
Deanna Bogart Participant
Joey Gilmore Participant
Mel Waiters Participant
Michael Burks Participant
Mitch Woods Participant
Phantom Blues Band Participant
Ronnie Baker Brooks Participant
Ruthie Foster Participant
Tab Benoit Participant
Tasha Taylor Participant
Tommy Castro Participant

Technical Credits
Robert Mugge Director,Editor,Producer
Christopher Li Cinematographer
Roger Naber Executive Producer
Big Mo Recording Sound Mixer
David Sperling Cinematographer
Diana Zelman Associate Producer

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