October 21, 1999

Middlebury Filmmaker to Show Documentary About Iowa Singer/Songwriter Greg Brown on Nov. 6

"When I was a kid, we had prayer meetings every Wednesday night, Friday night, Sunday morning, and Sunday night. Our church was all white and the black Baptist church was about two blocks down the street. The windows were open on those hot summer nights and it seemed almost like a dialogue. We'd sing a song and then, coming from down the street, I'd hear the Baptists singing it." -- Greg Brown, singer/songwriter

"Hacklebarney Tunes," a documentary about singer/songwriter Greg Brown, will be shown Saturday, Nov. 6 at 7 p.m. in Middlebury College's Twilight Auditorium, on College Street (Route 125 near Municipal Building). The screening, which lasts 60 minutes, is free and open to the public. Jeffrey Ruoff, the producer/director, will be present for a discussion afterwards. This screening has been scheduled in anticipation of Greg Brown's live performances at the After Dark Music Series in Middlebury on Nov. 7-8.

"Hacklebarney Tunes" tells the story of a singer/songwriter from southern Iowa whose grandparents were Appalachian folk musicians. The son of an itinerant preacher, Greg Brown grew up in small towns across the Midwest. In the early 1980s, he performed weekly on National Public Radio's "A Prairie Home Companion" with Garrison Keillor. As Keillor states in the film, "Greg has this Midwestern fundamentalist background that we spent a lot of time discussing, usually as we sat on my porch drinking whiskey and smoking unfiltered cigarettes."

Today, despite an international reputation, Brown still lives in Iowa City, performing at local taverns and maintaining strong ties to his community. His music is eclectic in nature, but deeply rooted in traditional American styles of country, blues, folk, and gospel.

"Hacklebarney Tunes" has a strong regional flavor, featuring musicians and critics from Iowa and Minnesota. In addition to live concert performances and informal jam sessions, the film takes its audience to a religious service at the rural fundamentalist church Brown attended as a child, fishing with Brown, and on a visit to Earlville, the town of 700 where his formative teenage years were spent. Music critics from the Utne Reader and other publications place Brown's art in the context of American musical styles. Numerous songs are featured from Brown's eclectic work, including "Canned Goods" and "Laughing River," as well as such classics as "Pretty Boy Floyd" and "Lost Highway."

"Hacklebarney Tunes" was independently produced with grants from the Jerome Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Iowa Humanities Board, the Iowa Arts Council, and KTCA-St. Paul.

Jeffrey Ruoff is a film historian, documentary filmmaker, and member of the film/video department at Middlebury College. For more information about the screening, please contact Ruoff at 802-443-3244.