Review: ‘Spider John Koerner: Been Here … Done That’

An overlooked character from 20th-century folk music is cheerfully nudged into view in low-key docu "Spider John Koerner: Been Here ... Done That." Veteran documaker Don McGlynn leisurely illuminates the life and substantial influence of the legendary Minnesota folk musician on the '60s American music scene.

An overlooked character from 20th-century folk music is cheerfully nudged into view in low-key docu “Spider John Koerner: Been Here … Done That.” Veteran documaker Don McGlynn (“The Legend of Teddy Edwards”) leisurely illuminates the life and substantial influence of the legendary Minnesota folk musician on the ’60s American music scene. Alongside both original and traditional tunes, the film brims with good-natured, if similarly little-known, interviewees, all singing Koerner’s praises. This is perfect fest and pubcaster fare.

Koerner’s trio of folk musicians (with Dave “Snaker” Ray and Tony “Little Sun” Glover) fell into the chronological gap between the renowned Weavers and the emergence of contemporary Minnesotan Bob Dylan. Subject is gently encouraged to expound on his life; but this charming raconteur is more interested in other matters, such as astronomy. Koerner has spent a lifetime eschewing acclaim — and again artfully sidesteps most attempts to probe his personal life, relive the good ol’ days or prove his importance. Regardless, the film entertains, and McGlynn presents an informative case for Koerner’s historical significance. DV lensing and other tech credits are low budget, but help maintain the folksy feel.

Spider John Koerner: Been Here ... Done That

Denmark

Production

A Rough Sea production. (International sales: McGlynn Films, Copenhagen.) Produced by Don McGlynn. Executive producer, Celia Mingus Zaentz. Directed, written by Don McGlynn.

Crew

Camera (color/B&W, DV-to-35mm), Frank Axelsen, Jef Burns, Hal Lansberry, McGlynn; editors, Christian Moltke-Leth, McGlynn; music, Spider John Koerner, Dave Ray, Tony Glover. Reviewed at Melbourne Film Festival, July 30, 2005. Running time: 98 MIN.

With

John Koerner, Dave Ray, Tony Glover, Willie Murphy.
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