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Album Review

Since no one could copyright "Mississippi," two major blues performers, Fred McDowell and John Hurt, adopted the state as part of their name. To confuse matters more, both performers made comebacks during the late '50s/early '60s and both specialized in prewar acoustic blues. While a blues novice might find such similarities confusing, the two men's singing and guitar styles are polar opposites. Whereas Hurt's smooth, deep vocals and Piedmont fingerpicking made him easily accessible to the folk revival crowd, McDowell's soulful vocals and forcefully rhythmic guitar represented something more primitive. In 1967, producer George Mitchell brought together McDowell and harp player Johnny Woods for an off-the-cuff session not unlike what one might have heard at a Como, MS, house party. Interestingly, the two men hadn't played together in eight years, but on songs like "Standing at the Backdoor" and the title track, one would never guess it. This isn't a polite affair, with one player holding back while the other solos. Instead, McDowell and Woods trade notes, overlap, and rush forward on "Long Haired Doney" and "Shake Em' on Down" as though they had an unlimited supply of energy. While McDowell's vocals and slashing guitar propel "Goin' Away" and "I Got a Woman" forward, Woods' harp adds pizzazz. Acoustic blues fans will warmly embrace Mama Says I'm Crazy and be thankful that Mitchell went to the trouble required to track down Woods for this earthy set. ~ Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr., Rovi

Biography

Born: 13 January 1904 in Rossville, TN

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s

When Mississippi Fred McDowell proclaimed on one of his last albums, "I do not play no rock & roll," it was less a boast by an aging musician swept aside by the big beat than a mere statement of fact. As a stylist and purveyor of the original Delta blues, he was superb, equal parts Charley Patton and Son House coming to the fore through his roughed-up vocals and slashing bottleneck style of guitar playing. McDowell knew he was the real deal, and while others were diluting and updating their sound...
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Mama Says I'm Crazy, Mississippi Fred McDowell
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