Gettin’ dirt off a dirt road

‘Black Snake Moan’ sings a song of redemption, but in a land too dirty to clean

Michael Garberich

Man can tell a story with a lotta heart, even if he seems to have his priorities in the wrong places.

“Black Snake Moan” is like Cinderella comes to Memphis one afternoon. We just bleed more, drink more, cuss more and show more down here in the dirty south.

But a little grime on top doesn’t always cover something better beneath.

Just because you’re searching for the honest soul doesn’t mean all searching’s made equal. Fact is, some searches look better than others, do more for you and find more in the doing.

Remember that “Pulp Fiction” movie when Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) tells Vincent (John Travolta) he’s righting to quit the contract business and just walk the earth to wherever the good Lord needs him? Shepherding the weak and the wicked and all that righteousness? That’s the kind of soul searching to make a body honest. And, turns out too, that badass mother$#&*%$ wasn’t lying.

Been 13 years now, but he been walking all this time.

Man’s just done away with that name Jules and started calling himself in “Black Snake Moan,” Lazarus – Lazarus like in the Bible, if you believe it.

He got himself a home here tilling greens all day, singing blues when he ain’t toiling, going to see his preacher friend he got out here named Reverend R.L. (John Cothran Jr.), who helps Laz through his divorce. Lazarus is a lonely hound wandering the field.

But what’s a man named Lazarus to do?

Name like that’s been touched by the divine intervention and called to be a redeemer in God’s name.

And this skinny little dirty blond girl we got around town named Rae (Christina Ricci) she’s exactly the kind of girl who needs a little God fearing in her.

Walks up and down these dirt roads she does, flouncing all she got in those nappy brown boots and those daisy dukes and that confederate flag piece of rag she calls a shirt.

Kind of girl who’s got the demons inside her, the sickness, the itch.

We’re talking sex crave like you can’t imagine. Needs it, that girl does.

Her man Ronnie (Justin Timberlake) been helping, but when he gone off to the reserve, she find herself in a heaping of trouble trying to get it from anywhere she can.

And that’s how she was beat up by a friend of Ronnie’s and left on the side of the road for the devil.

But God ain’t forgot her.

She winds up outside Lazarus’ house nearly dead in the ditch and what’s a good man to do? They say them good types are hard to find, but they’re around all the same. And Lazarus, he’s a good man. He’ll cast out your demons, even if he takes a 20-foot chain to do it.

The other year back, this same moviemaker named Brewer made that one about them pimps and hos recording music and getting themselves off the muddy slope; “Hustle & Flow” he called it.

Like Cinderella, just a fairytale – making dreams and magic like it’s the only story to be told. So no surprise he’s back doing it again, mind you with a little less sparkle and bling, more grits and chain.

This is the blues, not hip-hop. Even “Black Snake Moan” is the name of that song by bluesman Blind Lemon Jefferson from back in 1927. Another good man, that one.

But what you thinking? Old Negro man, young white girl. We know what kind of noise that’d have you making.

Naw, Ronnie doesn’t stay away long. Boy can’t fire a gun. Got his own demons to term with, and when he comes back he’s got some questions need settling with old Laz and Rae.

But what you going to expect from a guy like Brewer making movies all his day?

Don’t matter how you stir it, girl’s got a long, dirty path to walk before she gets clean. But if you ask me, it’s too long and too dirty, and when she gets to the end of it, it’s too clean for what we calling the Dirty South.