Don't Start Me Talkin': The Junior Wells Story

Junior Wells, Buddy Guy. Directed by Andre Peraza. Aspect ratio: 4:3. Dolby Digital 2.0. 88 minutes. 2004. Sony Music/Legacy Video JVD55754. NR. $14.98.

Picture * 1/2

Sound **

Film ****

Junior Wells died in 1998, but his influence on modern electric blues will continue well into the next millennium. The foremost harmonica player of the last 30 years, his playing rivaled even that of harmonica pioneers Sonny Boy Williamson and Little Walter.

Anyone who met Wells quickly discovered that he was a man of many moods, prone to fits of humor, rage, and even stormy silence. This DVD does a fine job of explaining the man and his music. Combining interviews with footage of live performances, director Andre Peraza provides a remarkably complete picture of Wells' incendiary personality and stellar musical ability.

The quality of many of the live musical segments is less than ideal. This footage was produced originally for television, but even on a small screen, the picture is soft, poorly lit, and almost amateurish in technical quality. The sound is barely passable, with limited fidelity as well as periodic dropouts and peak-level distortion. The disc also fails to make full use of the DVD medium. It lacks any added features, such as a discography or extra audio tracks. Even the menu is bare bones: the only options are Play and Resume. And no chapter divisions—navigating this disc to find your favorite part is as difficult as with videotape.

But despite its numerous technical shortcomings, Don't Start Me Talkin' will be fascinating to any hardcore blues aficionado or serious lover of American roots music.—SS