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Blues, Rags and Hollers

Koerner, Ray & Glover

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Album Review

As much of a cult following as they have among blues and folk fans, Koerner, Ray & Glover aren't exactly the kind of act who will attract interest from noted documentary filmmakers or PBS' American Masters series. So Tony Glover himself co-directed this 1986 documentary, which began as a half-hour film, and was eventually expanded to the two-hour form in which it's presented on this DVD. Its low-budget, humble origins are sometimes evident, though only the occasional fluctuation in sound levels is a significant drawback. Too, the relative scarcity of vintage footage — it wasn't until April 1982, nearly 20 years after their first recordings, that they appeared on television — means it has to rely heavily on talking heads and still photos. As much as a DVD can be said to grow on you over the course of its two-hour running time, however, this low-key but affectionate portrait does. John Koerner, Dave Ray, and Tony Glover all speak extensively about their individual and group histories, their idiosyncratic combination of folk and blues, and their sporadic recordings. Indeed, about as much time's given to their various side projects as their work together as a trio, and while the early- to mid-'60s recordings that established their reputation aren't neglected, there's a lot of coverage of what they did in the subsequent two decades as well. What comes across most memorably is the humble, droll diffidence of all them toward fame and fortune; in the case of Koerner and Ray in particular, they just didn't seem too bothered with getting ahead in the music business, simply playing for kicks and rolling willy-nilly with whatever whimsical paths their music or lives took. The documentary also reveals some interesting non-musical activities of Glover's that even fans of the trio might not be aware of, including his stint as a popular radio DJ, his rock journalism, and his friendship with Patti Smith long before she started to perform music. This won't win any major awards for striking or slick documentary filmmaking, but if there was an award for the least pretentious documentary of a significant recording act, it could well win that prize. The DVD includes a couple updates as to their surprisingly extensive activities in the two decades following 1986 (including, sadly, Dave Ray's death in 2002), as well as 25 minutes of performance footage from the 1990s.

Biography

Formed: 1962 in Minneapolis, MN

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '90s

In today's climate of a blues band seemingly on every corner with "the next Stevie Ray Vaughan" being touted every other minute, it's hard to imagine a time when being a white blues singer was considered kind of a novelty. But in those heady times of the early '60s and the folk and blues revival, that's exactly how it was. But into this milieu came three young men who knew it, understood it, and could play and sing it; their names were Koerner, Ray & Glover. They were folkies, to be sure, but...
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Blues, Rags and Hollers, Koerner, Ray & Glover
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