Visible World Films has released "Down in the Woods", a DVD about the life and music of Alabama bluesman Willie King. The film takes viewers on a journey into Willie's world - a backwood, juke-joint musician who lives and breathes the blues every moment of his life. The DVD contains a 63-minute documentary and 40 minutes of live music.
Dutch filmmakers Saskia Reitmeijer and Bart Drolenga of Visible World Films came to America with the intention of producing a documentary about African American arts and culture in the deep South. When they met Willie, they decided instead to devote their efforts to creating a DVD about Willie's life and times.
The DVD is a fascinating collage of Willie King's life and many activities, illuminated with searing live performances and interviews with his family and friends. It enables the viewer to experience something of what it is like to be a modern bluesman living in the Alabama Black Belt, "down in the woods."
Born on a cotton plantation in 1943 the son of poor sharecroppers, Willie was drawn to the blues at an early age. He made his first guitar out of bailing wire when he was seven and has been playing ever since. Cotton picker, moon shiner, juke joint owner, civil rights activist and social worker - Willie has done them all and now is one of the most popular blues musicians around.
He plays big stages and festivals but always returns to his beloved Old Memphis, a small and mostly African-American community in rural Alabama where he lives in an old trailer and preaches the blues at house parties and in ramshackle juke joints. Willie spends much of his time supporting his local community and teaching young people the traditional culture and survival skills passed on to him from his people's share cropping and slave ancestors.
Willie King is one of the true innovators of the blues in the tradition of Howlin' Wolf and John Lee Hooker. His music is powerful - an exciting, danceable mix of rural blues, soul and boogie, all in his own distinctive style. King's lyrics are often political, fighting racism and a voice for poor blacks in the South. He preaches a message of peace, togetherness and social justice for all people around the world.
We regret that since this film was made, Willie King died at his home in 2009. For more information go to www.willie-king.com.