Telarc Blues continues a superb tradition of offering up excellent releases, and this CD, a tribute to Mississippi Fred McDowell, serves up a dozen cuts by some major artists, all showing respect and taste. McDowell was truly a master, charging his blues with a slashing bottleneck style akin to Son House, while his vocals showed similar traits to Charley Patton. Born in 1904, and passed over during the 1920's and 30's, where many of his counterparts came to prominence, Mississippi Fred wasn't actually 'discovered' until 1959, by folklorist Alan Lomax, who was the first to record McDowell. Those performances were issued as part of a series on the Atlantic label, but it wasn't until Arhoolie's Chris Strachwitz searched out the artist that his times began to change for the better. Perhaps the most memorable comment from Mississippi Fred McDowell came later in life when he emphatically stated, "I do not play no rock 'n' roll," and while true, McDowell's style certainly 'rocked' with the best of them.
Paul Geremia leads off with "Get Right Church," and Charlie Musselwhite steps up next with a potent "61 Highway," showing his excellent, though not-often heard skills as a guitarist. Anders Osborne smolders through "Kokomo Blues," and Colleen Sexton's version of "Keep Your Lamp Trimmed And Burning" is just one of the many high points. Supported by Gregg Hoover's slide work, and a firm, but loose, rhythm section of Dan Corbett and Darren Thiboutot, on bass and drums respectively, they simmer slowly behind Sexton's potent voice. Johnny Sansone is paired with the same trio for "That's Alright," and he comes through in spades with sharp harmonica and a gritty vocal. Brian Stoltz does a fine "You Gotta Move," and Tab Benoit's "Train I Ride" is eerie in its closeness to McDowell's style, with the guitar and voice riding together as one. David Maxwell's remarkable piano-only reading of "I Heard Somebody Call" is simply stunning, and a standout, moving aside for Sue Foley's take on "Frisco Line," another potent ride. Kenny Neal takes on "Fred's Worried Life Blues" with his own guitar and harmonica providing the necessary spice, while Steve James rivets the listener with "I Rolled And I Tumbled." Scott Holt closes out the set with John Lee Williamson's classic "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl," laced with a gravelly voice and searing, overdriven guitar.
While tribute recordings to past giants have become more popular in recent times, some have fallen short of the intended mark by trying too hard to stick to the style of those being honored. "Preachin' The Blues: The Music Of Mississippi Fred McDowell" is one of the better trips through an artists' repertoire, and one of the ingredients making this nod so strong, solid, and vital, is that each performer stands on his or her own ground, while covering McDowell's book, but ultimately, they all sound like themselves. And as Steve James points out in the liner notes, "that's probably the best tribute that could be paid to Mississippi Fred McDowell." This one's a necessity for anyone who likes their blues raw and powerful. www.telarc.com has all the latest, up-to-date info.
Click on the CD cover for other titles by Fred McDowell
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