Arhoolie Records' 50 Years of Roots Music Celebrated in Film at SXSW

Chris Strachwitz, who founded Arhoolie Records in 1960

Arhoolie Records founder Chris Strachwitz built his label by recording blues, conjunto, Cajun music, zydeco and New Orleans brass bands in places where other producers would not go -- so it only made sense to celebrate the film about Strachwitz and Arhoolie at a remove from the madness and congestion of downtown Austin.

Strachwitz and the filmmakers behind "This Ain't No Mouse Music," Maureen Gosling and Chris Simon, celebrated the premiere for the film with a gathering at a private home about eight miles away from the center of town.

The films chronicles Strachwitz at work in recent years, recording indigenous musicians in Louisiana and Texas, as well as explaining his 50 years in the record business working with Lightnin' Hopkins, Clifton Chenier, Mance Lipscomb, Big Mama Thornton and Michael Doucet of Beausoleil. "If Chris didn't go down there and record it," Richard Sthompson says in the film, "we wouldn't know about it."

Ry Cooder, Bonnie Raitt and Taj Mahal are among the musicians who speak about the importance of Strachwitz's work as a producer. As the publisher of Country Joe McDonald's "Fixin to Die Rag," he was able to open a record store in the northern California town of El Cerrito, Down Home Music where the moto is painted in the side of the wall: "This ain't no mouse music."

"Chris was interested in recording music people listened to, not music that he needed to capture before it disappeared," Gosling told Billboard, drawing a distinction between Arhoolie and the work of folklorists such as Alan Lomax.


Maureen Gosling began filming "This Ain't No Mouse Music" in 2004

Gosling and Simon began shooting in 2004 at Strachwitz's annual Fourth of July party and accompanied him on various trips. Funding came in through grants, which made it a stop-and-start project; a Kickstarter campaign that raised more than $32,000 gave them the resources to finish the film.

Arhoolie has already released two CDs of music from their travels -- Sammy Rimington's Visits New Orleans and the compilation A New Orleans Visit Before Katrina.

There are about 70 songs in the film, 30 of which Strachwitz controls the publishing. "We watched the film with Chris for him to go over the music,"Gosling says. "We made the ultimate artistic decisions -- he did try to produce us like he tries to produce everything -- and he helped us focus on the music that was important to him, like a specific Lightnin' Hopkins song that he fell in love with when he was 16."

Strachwitz, now 81, will speak after the 6 p.m. March 13 screening at the Alamo Ritz with Gosling and Simon.