For fans of the blues, the documentary Babe's & Ricky's Inn, produced and directed by Ramin Niami, is a bittersweet memento. An intimate film that doesn't aim to be anything more than an ode to the defunct blues club of the title, Babe's plays like a home movie in which family members are some of the most talented blues performers alive. Founded by the late Laura Mae Gross, the club started out on L.A.'s fabled Central Avenue before crime and a crumbling neighborhood forced a move to Leimert Park, the city's historic black arts community. Over the years, "the joint," as it's affectionately called by one person in the film, hosted names such as B.B. King, John Lee Hooker, and Albert King, among others, while drawing clientele from around the world. The heart and driving force of the venue was Gross, affectionately called "Mama" by the musicians who played her club, many of whom she fed, housed, and schooled in the music that was their calling-- but she was also handy with a firearm if need be. While the stream of blues folk singing her praises is moving and often hilarious (and just as often self-indulgent), and the live performances are largely wonderful, you can't help but wish an academic or two had been in the mix to better contextualize the club's importance within the larger world of the blues.
Ramin NiamiLaura Mae Gross, Ray Bailey, Chu Chu, Mickey Champion, Guitar Shorty, Keb' Mo;, Mike Stoller, Barbara Morrison, Peter Tork, Dennis JonesRamin NiamiRamin Niami