Honeyboy | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader
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Local filmmaker Scott Taradash tells the engrossing story of Chicago bluesman David "Honeyboy" Edwards, who was born in 1915 in the Mississippi Delta, jammed with Robert Johnson as a young man, came to Chicago in 1953, and still remembers the earliest days of the blues. "He never inflates his importance," notes Alligator Records president Bruce Iglauer. "Honeyboy understands that his role [in the history of the blues] was secondary, but his knowledge and his being there make him primary." Taradash seems to have adopted Iglauer's assessment, focusing less on Honeyboy than on the world that shaped him. Among the film's many dramatic tableaux are a shot of legless singer and harp player Willie Foster (born in 1921) stripped to the waist in a cotton field and moaning the blues and one of Honeyboy playing guitar on the railroad bridge he crossed as a boy when he left his family for Greenville with his mentor, Big Joe Williams. Honeyboy even sits for a laid-back chat with R.B. Moore, grandson of the plantation owner who exploited his college-educated sharecropper father. The live music is stirring throughout, and there's some wonderful 1969 footage of Honeyboy and harp player Big Walter Horton accompanying Alabama bluesman Johnny Shines. The commentary is less consistent: B.B. King provides some fine recollections of sharecropping life, but gee-whiz pondering from blues-crazy novelist Ace Atkins and aspiring young singer-guitarist Waymon Meeks slow down the film's 82 minutes. Shot and projected in high-definition video. Edwards and Taradash will attend both Sunday screenings. Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State, Sunday, January 5, 5:00 and 7:30, and Thursday, January 9, 8:15, 312-846-2800.

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