is an incredible archive, or as they call it a ‘national preserve’ of impossible to find documentary films about American folk music and roots cultures. The films on their wonderful site were created by independent filmmakers beginning in the 60s who took advantage of the first portable cameras with a capacity synch sound. They focus on the culture, struggles, and arts of unnoticed Americans from many different regions and communities.

A large number of the films on the Folkstreams are available for viewing as streams directly from their site.
I urge you to leave this site immediately and head over to Folkstreams and watch as much as you possibly can, buy DVDs and books and support this unparallelled resource.

I’ve highlighted just a few nuggets buried in the goldmine at that might be of interest to some of the blues music enthusiasts who frequent our site. If you look around you’ll also find documentaries on Arthur “Peg Leg Sam” Jackson, George “Kid Shiek” Colar, Gospel singers, gandy dancers, Fife and drum players including Otha Turner, Sonny Terry, Emanuel ‘Manny’ Sayles, Zydeco, New Orleans Jazz, and even Pete Seeger’s film about the Singing Fishermen of Ghana.

The Land Where the Blues Began

The Land Where the Blues Began is one of five films made from footage that Alan Lomax shot between 1978 and 1985 for the PBS American Patchwork series (1991). A self-described “song-hunter,” Alan Lomax traveled the Mississippi Delta in the 1930s and 40s, at first with his father John Lomax, later in the company sometimes of black folklorists like John W. Work III, armed with primitive recording equipment and a keen love of the Delta’s music heritage. Crisscrossing the towns and hamlets, jook joints and dance halls, prisons and churches, Lomax recorded such greats as Leadbelly, Fred McDowell, and Muddy Waters, all of whom made their debut recordings with him.

In the late 1970s Lomax returned with filmmaker John Bishop and black folklorist Worth Long to make the film The Land Where the Blues Began.


Give My Poor Heart Ease: Mississippi Delta Bluesmen

An account of the blues experience through the recollections and performances of B.B. King, Son Thomas, inmates from Parchman prison, a barber from Clarkesdale, a salesman from Beale Street, and others.

Give My Poor Heart Ease is one of a series of films made in Mississippi in the mid 1970s by William Ferris and the Center for Southern Folklore and produced in association with Howard Sayre Weaver. This field work is the basis for Ferris’s 2009 book Give My Poor Heart Ease: Voices of the Mississippi Blues.


Blues Houseparty: Music, Dance and Stories by Masters of the Piedmont Blues

Some of America’s greatest traditional blues masters get together at home to swap songs from the old days and stories of waht those days were like, when blues flourished ‘back down home’ at country breakdowns, corn-shuckings and houseparties. These musicians and their friends create the lively spirit of houseparty blues, while conveying the values, the history, the good and bad times, and the sense of community that gave form to their music and dance (Blurb by Dick Spottswood)

Featuring: John Cephas, Phil Wiggins, Archie Edwards, John Jackson, James Jackson, Cora Jackson, Flora Molton, Larry Wise, John Dee Holeman, and Quentin ‘Fris’ Holloway.


Toot Blues

In the late 1980s, Timothy Duffy, a penniless North Carolina musicology student, set out to document and preserve traditional southern roots and blues music. On his travels from Winston-Salem’s drinkhouse music scene, an off-the-grid hotbed of gritty traditional blues, to deep-south family run churches, he found purpose and inspiration from a cast of amazingly talented, pure and unique set of characters (the artists!!).

Toot Blues remarkably captures the true essence and talent of the artists from Guitar Gabriel, a ‘homeless magic potion selling’ blues genius; to Willa Mae Buckner, a snake charming elderly woman taunting delightfully raunchy blues; to Beverly ‘Guitar’ Watkins, a grandmother who continues to tear up the stage and play a killer electric guitar behind her head; to Bishop Dready Manning and family churning out homebrewed rockabilly-gospel; to Boo Hanks, an 80 year-old bluesman recording an album for the very first time; to blind guitarist, Cootie Stark, mesmerizing crowds world-wide while never failing to find his way home by himself.

Alan Lomax on Amazon