“Blaze,” the new bio-pic-ish feature film about cult singer/songwriter and Arkansas native Blaze Foley, and its star, Little Rock native Ben Dickey, are earning critical praise after the new film debuted Sunday at Sundance. Dickey is a musician, well known by folks who were paying attention to the local scene during the late-Towncraft era, when he played in Shake Ray Turbine. Later, in Philadelphia, he formed a vintage-y rock band called Blood Feathers. More recently, he’s been working solo to great effect. The movie, directed by Ethan Hawke, is his first acting work. But it sounds like he nailed it:

From the Hollywood Reporter (which also has a video interview with Dickey, Hawke and the rest of the cast):

A belated but heartfelt eulogy for a songwriter who didn’t live long enough to drink himself to death like his most famous friend, Ethan Hawke’s Blaze will be the first introduction most viewers have to Blaze Foley. A contemporary of Willie Nelson and the other “Outlaw” country artists, Foley was troublesome even by their standard — belligerent and (at least according to the film) frequently kicked out of clubs for performing drunk. Hawke goes in search of his tender side and finds it in a big way, thanks in large part to a charismatic lead performance by musician Ben Dickey, a first-timer who doesn’t look it.

From Variety:

Benjamin Dickey’s performance is gnarly and true: His Blaze can be a charmer (especially when he’s beguiling truck drivers with his long joke about a coffee enema), but he can also be a sullen lout, and when we meet his father (Kris Kristofferson), who can’t do much but grin and ask for a cigarette from his institutional bed, we see why Blaze, in his way, is so broken. His dad was a drunk who hit him and threw away the family’s food money on bottles of Thunderbird. Maybe that’s why Blaze is so…unconnective. He’s damaged goods, though that links him up to any number of the haunted country and blues singers of the past. His songs ring out because he knows that pain.

The vagaries of film distribution make it hard to predict the future of indie films with buzz, but you’d think that this would likely make its way to the Arkansas Cinema Society one of these days. Dickey is longtime pals with ACS executive director Kathryn Tucker.

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