October 2, 2003

Editors' Note

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Public television rocks. Bet you thought you’d never read that. Believe us, we never thought we’d write it. But after spending every night this week in front of the tube tuned into PBS from 9 to 11 (replayed at 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. for night owls), we can’t come to any other conclusion. Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues could be the best 14 hours you’ll ever spend. Ever wonder where Nirvana got “Where Did You Sleep,” that amazing final track on Unplugged? Where the White Stripes swiped “Death Letter” on De Stijl? This is the show for you. All ready know it was Leadbelly and Son House, respectively and own the original recordings? This is the show for you. It’s all here, from the bone deep growl of Howlin’ Wolf and the dirty, leering licks of John Lee Hooker to the eerie tunings and unearthly voice of Skip James.

The mini-series has incredible range, moving from the ancient drum traditions of West Africa to the cotton fields of Mississippi through the recording studios of Memphis only to recross the Atlantic and end up in London. Featuring live performances from the second to last (he taught his daughter to play) living player of the cane flute, Otha Turner, rare archival footage of Son House, and blistering reinterpretations by Lou Reed and Lucinda Williams, this is must see TV. So kiss your social life goodbye and prepare for couch butt, this is the real thing.

Archived article by Erica Stein