It was Alan Lomax that brought Fred McDowell's backwoods brand of country blues to the attention of record labels who jumped to record the Delta musician at the forefront of the folk blues revival of the early 1960s. The Arhoolie, Testament, and Atlantic labels presented the honest, rugged, yet gospel-rooted blues of the rural McDowell.
His gutbucket brand of blues was delivered with the fire and brimstone of the most lucid of evangelists. Blues stylizations fall to genuine understanding and delivery of the genre's most elusive and seemingly tortured inner reflections. Blues purism is a two-way street for players and listeners; and for players like McDowell and his mentor Charley Patton, the blues were lived and they profiled an existence.
With respect to McDowell; a bevy of more contemporary blues musicians tip their hat and musical roots to Fred and his country blues. Many of the cuts found here are well-known blues standards, and the performers are as varied as their executions and styles. Paul Geremia jumps up to start it all with "Get Right Church" bringing resonating slide within a full-bodied acoustic redux. Charlie Musselwhite carries the cross next on "61 Highway" with rare and sweet guitar and strident vocals. Anders Osborne bats next with his homer on "Kokomo Blues" replete with gristled vox and strong ax pickin'. Gregg Hoover, Dan Corbett, and Darren Thiboutot assemble for two: "Keep Your Lamp Trimmed And Burning" with Colleen Sexton providing the vocals; and, "That's Alright" with Johnny Sansone on the harmonica and vox.
Brian Stoltz plops down on a high strung rendition of "You Gotta Move" with weighty voice and slide contributing equally. Hot frets from Tab Benoit and his authentic drawled vocals put down an earthen version of "Train I Ride"; and, you can hear the ivory register cook with David Maxwell on the piano for "I Heard Somebody Call". His pleading notation resounds with the melancholic drama and hopeful expressiveness that pervades the original. Canadian Sue Foley puts a vocal agony and her guitar ecstasy into the travelin' train song "Frisco Line", while Kenny Neal delivers "Fred's Worried Life Blues", and Scott Holt finishes it out with a pointed "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl".
A very healthy collection of acoustic blues is found on the disc. Here found are straight forward, solo (in most cases) renditions with classic results; blues done with root processes in mind and heart. This is a magnificent retrospective of McDowell songs that are often thought to come from the public domain. All the artists here are true to the character of McDowell's music, and respectful of the Mississippi bluesman's contributions to the genre.
Telarc Records; Telarc International Corp.; 23307 Commerce Park Drive; Cleveland, Ohio 44122: or, www.telarc.com
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