Fred McDowell's place in the history of American music is set in stone. His
musical intensity and burning inner fire while performing are legendary.
When he moved his slide over the strings of his guitar and sang from his
heart, there was a palpable bridge connecting us to another realm. We are
privileged to be able to witness this amazing bond between a very special
artist and his blues through the legacy he left behind.
To honor Fred's place in the pantheon of all time inspirational blues
greats; Telarc has bestowed its third and final album of their tribute
series to Mr. McDowell.
Previous tributes included "Hellhound On My Trail: The Songs of Robert
Johnson" Telarc CD-83521 and "Down the Dirt Road: The Songs of Charley
Patton" Telarc CD-83535. The title of their latest CD, "Preachin' the
Blues: The Music of Mississippi Fred McDowell" is slightly confusing because
the previous two tribute albums were titled after songs well known to be
performed and recorded by their respective artists. "Preachin the Blues" is
the title of a Son House song, of which I could find no McDowell recording.
(If you know of one, let me know.) The fact that Mr. House was a big
influence on Fred may have played a part in the title because it also makes
the inference that this eclectic gathering of artists recorded here are in
essence, "Preachin' the Blues" as influenced by Fred McDowell.
His music is carried on with new ingredients added by each respective artist
so it is only natural that some of Fred's influence is easier to hear then
others as they each interpret Fred's songs with their own individual musical
imprint. For instance, "You Gotta Move" by Brian Stoltz has Fred McDowell's
version written all over it. While Paul Geremia performs "Get Right Church"
in a style that is in a way, Leo Kottke meets Fred McDowell. David Maxwell
plays a piano instrumental version of "I Heard Somebody Call" and Johnny
Sansone's version of "That's Alright" is done in a Chicago Blues mode with
the opening lines of the vocal tinted with a hint of Elvis. Highlights of
the CD include; "Kokomo blues" by Anders Osborne, "Train I Ride" by Tab
Benoit, and "I Rolled and I Tumbled" by Steve James. Another pair that get
the replay button are the harmonica master Charlie Musselwhite's version of
"61 Highway" fingerpicked on the guitar in his own inimitable old time delta
blues style and the predatorily menacing version of "Good Morning Little
Schoolgirl" by Scott Holt.
"Preachin the Blues: The Music of Mississippi Fred McDowell" is a diverse
mix of Mr. McDowell's songs performed by an eclectic group of artists who
are "influenced by" and not "copying" Fred. Novice McDowell fans trying to
get a feel for his music would be better served by getting an actual Fred
McDowell CD to peruse while attempting to figure out his complicated North
Mississippi style. But as a vehicle for experienced McDowell fans to see the
influence he had on other talented artists, this CD may hold some interest
for you. The sound quality, mixing, and engineering are excellent and there
are enough bright spots to warrant a good open-minded listen by fans who
want to explore how his music has been received and interpreted by this
generation of the blues tree.
Telarc International Corporation, 23307 Commerce Park RD, Cleveland OH
Simply click on the CD cover at left to order this CD NOW!
This review is copyright © 2002 by Stephen T. Davidson, and Blues On Stage at: www.mnblues.com, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission.
For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.