In the upcoming Ethan Hawke-directed film Blaze, musician and first-time actor Ben Dickey pulls off nothing short of an astonishing feat as he inhabits the lead role of singer-songwriter Blaze Foley. A character steeped in myth and legend long before a blast from a .22 rifle ended his life at just 39 years old on January 31st, 1989, Foley has been paid posthumous tribute in song (Lucinda Williams’ “Drunken Angel”), and his songs, including “If I Could Only Fly” and “Clay Pigeons” have been covered, respectively, by Merle Haggard and John Prine, among others.
Prine’s influence on Foley is channeled in poignant, stunning detail in “Clay Pigeons,” a tune Foley wrote about relocating from Chicago – where Prine lived – to Georgia in 1977. A charming, if melancholy, meditation on Southern simplicity and charm, the tune would be covered by Prine on his Grammy-winning 2005 album, Fair & Square. Although Foley and his girlfriend-muse Sybil Rosen would meet Prine backstage at a concert in Georgia, Rosen — upon whose memoir, Living in the Woods in a Tree: Remembering Blaze Foley, the movie is based — would recall that Foley didn’t mention his songwriting to Prine. He did, however, abscond with an empty Heineken bottle Prine left onstage, and told the songwriting legend that he and Rosen, played in the film by Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development), did, indeed, live together in a treehouse in the Georgia woods. “Then you must be one squirrelly motherfucker,” Prine reportedly said. True as that may or may not have been, Dickey’s rendition of “Clay Pigeons” beautifully demonstrates the care Foley took in his simple but affecting songwriting and the reverence with which Dickey conveys the late performer’s underappreciated gift for earnest detail.
The man born Michael David Fuller and alternatively known as Deputy Dawg or the Duct Tape Messiah, owing to his affinity for the silver-gray adhesive material which he frequently wore on his clothing, found a friend — and fellow troublemaker — in Townes Van Zandt, played in Blaze by Bob Dylan’s longtime guitarist Charlie Sexton, who also handled the film’s music production. His close friend and bandmate, Gurf Morlix, was also brought in to participate in the production.
Blaze premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, where Dickey received the Special Jury Award for Achievement in Acting. Foley’s roots in the Austin music scene will be celebrated next month with Dickey and Hawke appearing at a series of screenings and music events. The film will also be screened in Nashville before its wide release in September. Available on vinyl and through digital outlets on September 21st, the Blaze: Original Cast Recording, features new recordings of Foley’s compositions and the Foley-inspired “Drunken Angel,” performed by Hurray for the Riff Raff’s Alynda Segarra. Also featured is Dickey’s original tune, “Blaze & Sybil’s Lullaby.” See the soundtrack track listing and schedule for special events and screenings below.
Here’s the Blaze: Original Cast Recording track listing, released via Light in the Attic records:
1. “Let Me Ride in Your Big Cadillac,” Ben Dickey
2. “Big Cheeseburgers & Good French Fries,” Ben Dickey and Cast
3. “Clay Pigeons,” Ben Dickey and Cast
4. “Blaze & Sybil’s Lullaby,” Ben Dickey and Alia Shawkat
5. “Sittin’ by the Road,” Ben Dickey and Cast
6. “Oo–De–Lally,” Ben Dickey and Alia Shawkat
7. “Pearly Gates,” Ben Dickey and Alynda Segarra
8. “I Should Have Been Home,” Ben Dickey
9. “Picture Cards,” Ben Dickey
10. “Marie,” Charlie Sexton
11. “Cold Cold World,” Ben Dickey
12. “Drunken Angel,” Alynda Segarra
Ethan Hawke and Ben Dickey screening/Q&A tour dates:
August 12 – Houston, TX @ Rockefeller’s (Jack Ingram in concert, plus fireside chat)
August 13 – Houston, TX @ Landmark River Oaks (Screening with Q&A)
August 15 – Fort Worth, TX @ Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base (Screening with Q&A)
August 15 – Dallas, TX @ Landmark Magnolia (Screening with Q&A)
August 16 – Austin TX @ Violet Crown Cinema (Austin Premiere)
August 21 – El Paso, TX @ Alamo Drafthouse (Screening with Q&A)
August 22 – San Antonio, TX @ Smoke Shack (Ben Dickey live performance)
August 23 – San Antonio, TX @ Santikos Bijou (Screening with Q&A)
August 25 – Houston, TX @ Landmark Magnolia (Screening with Q&A)
August 31 – Nashville, TN @ Belcourt Theater (Screening with Q&A)