It has been twenty-five years since the 1991 release of music writer and critic Robert Palmer’s seminal documentary, “Deep Blues: A Musical Pilgrimage to the Crossroads.” Palmer was a native of Arkansas whose talents in both writing and music earned him the music critic job for The New York Times, and his band, Insect Trust, remains one of the wonderful and eclectic gems of American music. For anybody who enjoys blues music, this document of Mississippi’s rural culture is a captivating reminder of where so much American music began.
Robert Palmer was a brilliant music writer, even though, in “Deep Blues,” he sounds a little like an academic who is trying too hard in some of his narration. He cuts a strange figure here, a middle-aged guy with scraggly hair and a neon green ball cap, lurking among blues greats RL Burnside and Junior Kimbrough, but he’s not nearly as awkward as Dave Stewart, of the Eurythmics, who directed this film. (Stewart’s overly polished bad-boy look and hands-in-pocket sway-dancing are really hard to watch.) But, hell, just overlook that stuff and enjoy the music.