Lowdown Tracks is a documentary film directed by Shelley Saywell and Deborah Parks along with Bishari Film Productions Inc. and narrated by musician/activist Lorraine Segato (of The Parachute Club). This doc takes a look into the lives of the homeless street performers of Toronto. It focuses on threading together the stories of five transient musicians and highlights many raw and powerful performances. It features people living in various situations, some of whom own little more than the instrument they play. An interesting dialogue is developed between Lorraine Segato and the artists as a story of survival unfolds with each person.
While it does well to challenge certain stigmas surrounding homelessness and it brings up social issues such as drug addiction, ostracism, and mental illness, the documentary may be more preoccupied with the music than the overarching issue.
Look out for The Rail Yard Ghosts and Bruce Bathgate, who in my opinion are stand outs. The energy of The Rail Yard Ghosts, a group of five, caught me off guard. While initially unsure of the rugged sounding instruments, my opinion shifted as I heard the emotion and soul of every musician spilling their guts. This rings true for all the artists featured in the film and they express themselves best with the sounds of folk, bluegrass and country music.
The film achieves its goal of immortalizing the songs and stories of these individuals. The traumatic stories of these people recalls tragedy while the music they play reveals what helps them get through. Interestingly, echoes of their stories can be heard in the emotion that weighs heavy in the performance. It’s almost as though the performances alone tells of immense struggle. “You have to know pain and heartache to be out there,” I recall performer Katt Budd saying, and this is evident for each person.
I highly recommend checking out this documentary. If you enjoy music, you will certainly find something appealing here, regardless of musical taste. If you enjoy folk music, all the better.
7 out of 10 stars.