Saunders: Bimini Nights
- Victory Records
by Matt Rowe of The Digital Bits
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): C/C/C+
Specs and Features
95 min, NR, full frame (1.33:1), single-sided, single-layered,
Amaray keep case packaging, video interview, video of recording
session, 16 songs (audio only), photo gallery, recipes, credits,
program-themed menu screens, song access (16 songs
see track listing below), languages: English
(DD 2.0), subtitles: none
an island that pulses in the heart of the Bermuda Triangle, off the
coast of Florida, called Bimini. It's there that Ernest Hemingway
did much of his fishing, while having lived on the 7-mile long
island, that's just a mere 50 miles from the city of Miami. It's
because of that legacy that many people are drawn to this Bahamas
Island. It's what drew, I'm sure, Victory Records' Tony Brummel to
the island and eventually to the bar that contains a local treasure
named Nathaniel Saunders.
Saunders is a 90-plus-year-old banjo picker, with a helluva legacy
all of his own and plenty of stories to tell concerning his life and
his experiences with Ernest Hemingway. Saunders was Hemingway's
fishing guide on many trips and is claimed to have contributed key
sections to Hemingway's classic, The Old
Man and the Sea.
This disc was created with the express purpose of capturing the
tales and music of Nathaniel Saunders before it was lost. The music,
which is Caribbean in nature and unique to the area, is valued for
the raw quality it possesses. Tony Brummel caters to an audience
that would find this unrefined material (as island natives produce
it) an enjoyable source of music.
Admittedly, it took me several viewings to catch onto what Mr.
Brummels was attempting to achieve here. Now, I judge myself to be a
pretty good connoisseur of music in almost any style and genre, but
it took me a bit of time to distance myself from the seemingly
hybrid CD/DVD. That is say, it felt to me that the DVD was little
more than a spruced up CD. But eventually, I grasped what Brummels
was trying to accomplish and I began to admire him for his desire to
historically archive a style of music that may not survive the
passing of these musicians on this tiny island.
The disc is somewhat confusing at first. As consumers, we're very
used to doing things first and reading how to do it later. We toss
aside game manuals, tutorials, etc, to get right at the thing we
most want to be doing. The same is true of DVDs. There is a reason
why the studios put "Play Movie" as the first menu choice.
It's to watch the movie... NOW! On this disc, "The Songs"
is in that enviable position, thus becoming the first selection. But
guess what? Many will press that selection first... and be greeted
with a listing of songs. When you select one, you're presented with
a still of Saunders - a logo plastered on the screen with a CD ad
and music - while the music plays. Although there are 16 songs on
this DVD, they are here as audio documents only.
But the collection of songs is just one in a group of interesting
features. As a matter of fact, the songs should probably have been
placed last on the menu, to avoid the feeling that this is a music
video as opposed to a video journal. There's a murky-looking video
interview with Nathaniel, that takes several screenings to absorb.
There's also a taped recording session that is quite a film all by
itself. We're presented with a collection of the island's musical
talent - Saunders is here but there are others as well, equally
talented in their own way. Most impressive was the six-string guitar
and vocals of Jimmy Smith, who reminded me, in his own way, of Keith
Richards. Proud of being singled out for this video/audio recording,
they banter and maneuver themselves to achieve the greatest effect.
At the end of this, we're treated to a song by Jimmy Smith that is
nothing short of amazing. (Note to Tony Brummels: This guy should
have his own disc). This video document is rounded out by a text
history of Bimini, detailed recipes of 8 native dishes, a series of
photos of the band and the island, a written tribute to Ernest
Hemingway, credits and, finally, a 2-page video catalogue of other
CDs available from Victory World.
Technically, there is nothing visually outstanding on this disc.
The videos are taped using a camcorder. This is the same with the
audio portions of those same recordings. It requires several
samplings to appreciate the whole effect, so be absolutely prepared
for this eventuality. The 16 songs are better heard on a CD, and are
available as such, but work in this environment well enough. You can
just shut the TV off and listen to the songs as they cycle/shuffle
without your intervention. I won't review the actual music here -
suffice it to say that they're interesting Caribbean songs that
reflect the soul of the island. They're sung with pride and
delivered in style.
The sound quality of the disc is good, but only as good as the
camcorder allows. There are garbled and indistinguishable words at
times. The sound quality of the songs, however, is rendered as they
were recorded in Saunders bar (which was transformed into a
recording studio). They're remarkably clean, given the lack of
If you love music and you give this material a chance, you
eventually come to agree with Brummels' approach - it wasn't
Saunders he was trying to capture here so much as he was trying to
make this style of music endure. And if the quality is somewhat
lacking, the effort (at least) is admirable.
I have just one final thing to say... I hope that I'll look as good
when I'm 75 as Nathaniel Saunders does at 90!
Big Fat Slob (for Ernest Hemingway)
Wasp Bite Obie
Old Uncle Edward
Run Daryl Run