Sidemen: Long Road to Glory.
(Dir: Scott D. Rosenbaum)
Sidemen, narrated by Marc Maron, is a splendid tribute to three legendary bluesmen – pianist Pinetop Perkins, drummer Willie “Big Eyes” Smith and guitarist Hubert Sumlin. Over an hour and twenty minutes we get brief life histories of the three men, interviews and live performances by them, and tributes from a who’s who of the blues world, including Bonnie Raitt, Greg Allman, Joe Bonamassa, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi, to name but a few. It’s a beautifully crafted film, utterly engaging and an overdue appreciation of three musicians who left an indelible mark not only on the blues, but on rock’n roll. Their role was to support, and yet their contribution was foundational for both Muddy Waters’ and Howlin’ Wolf’s bands. Today’s musicians interviewed in the film leave us in no doubt that these three helped redefine modern music as we know it.
The beauty of the film is in the intimate interviews and live performances shot shortly before Perkins, Smith and Sumlin passed away in 2011, though there is a wealth of concert footage of Waters, Wolf, Hendrix and the Rolling Stones over the years too. Both Perkins and Smith died a few months after their Grammy success for the “Joined at the Hip,” album. Perkins was 97, the oldest Grammy winner, and Smith 75. It was indeed a long road to glory.
The film strongly makes the case for Hubert Sumlin’s induction into the Rock’n Roll Hall of Fame. Not only was he an outstanding guitarist – number 43 in Rolling Stone’s Top 100 Guitarist list, but rated by Derek Trucks as much, much better than that – but he was, according to Kenny Wayne Shepherd, “an extraordinary example of a human being.”
Sidemen is an affectionate, but never sentimental, tribute to three top class musicians who were overshadowed by two titans of blues history, Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. Any music fan ought to enjoy this film; any blues fan will be delighted – indeed for them it is required viewing.