“Pocket Full of Soul: The Harmonica Documentary” Release Announced
by Holley Dey
The requirements of the contest were simple and few: write an original song less than five minutes in length that includes the words “pocket full of soul” and features a harmonica solo. From nearly fifty songs submitted to the producers, the composition by Peter Madcat Ruth was selected for its thematic strength, warm melody, acoustic vibe and technical range. While Ruth’s song serves as the film’s theme, twenty-five to thirty more of the original submissions are used as transitions or in music beds throughout the soundtrack of the upcoming DVD release “Pocket Full of Soul: The Harmonica Documentary”.
Audio track: Pocket Full of Soul by Peter Madcat Ruth
The movie has been years in the making. As director Marc Lempert shares, “The process has been an albatross; the film has been a gem.” Initially presented as a work in progress at film and music festivals, the documentary earned accolades and perhaps more importantly, the interest of investors whose support allowed the forty-five minute short film to be completed. Movie in the can, the lengthy process of obtaining necessary archival footage and music rights clearances was begun. That process now complete, release of the full feature length, eighty-two minute “Pocket Full of Soul” is expected by the end of 2012. The DVD will first be made available for purchase through the Pocket Full of Soul website.
The short film offered an introduction to the instrument and the musicians who play it. The full length feature tells a story that the producers hope will appeal to a larger audience of music lovers and those interested in the documentary as a film genre. The relationship between the harmonica and its player is revealed as musicians are asked to described what draws them to the instrument. As Marc explains, “There is this complete human aspect to it. You actually breathe through the instrument. The actual mechanics involved in human breathing are what make the harmonica work right.” In a sense, the harmonica becomes an appendage to the player, which may explain why so many musicians have difficulty putting down their instruments. Listen to Grammy Award winner Howard Levy discuss his attachment to the band in his pocket:
The harmonica is among the smallest of instruments, often the first musical toy offered to very young children. On stage, the harmonica player can seem an afterthought, the musician who is sitting in with the band, an accessory to the main event. An accessory that is, until the player begins to play and then, Lempert insists, “I’ve seen entire audiences change when the harmonica player starts to play. Their mouths drop open and they are completely enraptured by this sound that is moving them, and they don’t really understand how that’s happening.” Played at the level of a professional, the harmonica is a mysterious instrument that captures the attention and imagination of all within earshot. Here is award winning blues harmonica player and singer Jason Ricci in a casual moment:
“Pocket Full of Soul” explores the use of the harmonica across musical genres, its incorporation into classical music, rock and roll, polka, blues music and more. “We’re trying to represent the universe that this instrument inhabits.” Musician, singer and songwriter Huey Lewis, an “angel” for the project, narrates the film. The players and their music tell the story through short interview and/or performance clips that make clear each player’s motivation for picking up the instrument. Among the the musicians who make appearances in the film are James Cotton, Magic Dick, Charlie Musselwhite, John Popper, Delbert McClinton, Kim Wilson, Robert Klein, Lee Oskar, Mickey Raphael, American Idol winner Taylor Hicks and many, many more. The history of the instrument, the progression of blues harmonica from the jug band to the Grand Ole Opry to Little Walter and Paul Butterfield is revealed. The passion of the players for their instrument and the music that they breathe is made evident. Listen to dynamic player and personality Guy Forsyth talk about blues harmonica and Muddy Waters:
“Pocket Full of Soul” is the first feature length film for director/co-producer Marc Lempert. The movie has been a journey that has taken him around the world and back, to the Hohner factories of Trossingen, Germany, the music festivals of southern Italy, and even to the ballpark in Houston, Texas where thousands of Astros fans attempted a world record for the largest harmonica ensemble. At times a long and arduous journey, it’s one that Marc says has taught him “…a lot about being a filmmaker and about humanity.” Says Lempert, ” I’m not a player; I’m a vessel for these people’s passion, and I hope I’m doing them justice.”
For updates on the pending release of “Pocket Full of Soul: The Harmonica Documentary”, winner of the 2010 Blues Foundation “Keeping the Blues Alive” award, stay tuned to the film’s website.