MISSISSIPPI FRED McDOWELL
DOWN HOME BLUES 1959 (2CD)
FRED McDOWELL: When You Get Home Write Me A Few Little Lines, Drop Down Mama, Fred McDowell's Blues, Goin' Down To The River, You Gonna Be Sorry, You Done Told Everybody, Woke Up This Morning With My Mind On Jesus, Soon One Mornin', Keep Your Lamps Trimmed And Burning, Wished I Was In Heaven Sitting Down, Germany Blues, Good Morning Little Schoolgirl, Freight Train Blues, Drinkin' Water Out Of A Hollow Log, I Want Jesus To Walk With Me, 61 Highway, Lord Have Mercy, Worried Mind, What's The Matter Now, Shake ‘Em On Down (alt take). JOHN DUDLEY: Cool Water Blues, Po ' Boy Blues. ED & LONNIE YOUNG: Jim And John, Hen Duck, Chevrolet, Oree, Sittin' On Top of The World. MILES & BOB PRATCHER: All Night Long, Gonna Live Anyhow, Buttermilk. FORREST CITY JOE: Levee Camp, Train Time, Red Cross Store, You Gotta Cut That Out, Stop Breaking Down, Drink On Little Girl, She Lived Her Life Too Fast, She Don't Love Me That Way, Forrest City Jump. Boy Blue: Boogie Children, Joe Lee's Rock. WILLIE JONES: Dimples.
It's mind-boggling to think that these original recordings represent the very first time that songs like Write Me A Few Of Your Lines, Shake ‘Em On Down and Keep Your Lamps Trimmed And Burning had been heard by anyone other than Fred McDowell's relatives and friends.
He hadn't recorded a note until 1959 when he heard that Alan Lomax of the Library Of Congress was in the area recording local blues musicians. Thinking he might fit the bill, he'd taken his guitar to the session at Ed and Lonnie Young's home. Later, Lomax's companion on the trip, Shirley Collins, recalled: "towards dusk, a slight figure in dungarees and carrying a guitar appeared out of the trees and walked into the clearing. Lonnie introduced him as Fred McDowell, a fifty year old farmer and he'd been picking cotton all day. Fred started to play bottleneck guitar, a shimmering and metallic sound. It took just a few minutes to realize that this dignified, modest and calm man was a major discovery with a wonderful repertoire. By the time he'd finished his first blues, we knew we were in the presence of a great and extraordinary musician". Needless to say, an excited Alan Lomax spent the next few days capturing the subtly complex, highly personal style of guitar playing and the dignified vocals of his big new discovery and the results are here on this two CD set.
The other musicians recorded in the same sessions make up the rest of the set so you get some more great performances like John Dudley playing his Cool Water Blues in the Tommy Johnson style and then laying down some searing slide on the excellent Po' Boy, Miles and Bob Pratcher echoing the lazy swing of the Mississippi Sheiks on their six guitar and fiddle numbers while harp player Forrest City Joe grinds out some superb rough-house juke joint sounds like Stop Breaking Down and She Lived Her Life Too Fast with the help of Sonny Rogers on guitar and Thomas Martin on rural but rockin' drums. Another high spot is Boy Blue's energetic and highly enthusiastic delivery of the rompin' Joe Lee's Rock which, forty years later, was to be sampled heavily for Moby's hit Find My Baby.
These recordings have been all been issued before in various bits and pieces on an Atlantic box set and a batch of CDs on Rounder, whose release ‘Fred McDowell - The First Recordings' (CDROU1718) contains just fourteen of the twenty three Fred tracks included here. The beauty of this 2CD set is that it pulls all of the McDowell recordings together and packages it with the rest of the relevant material into a wonderful set of immensely important and enjoyable country blues plucked out of the dry, warm atmosphere of the North Mississippi hill country in the autumn of 1959.
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Review Date: Febraury 2011