Mississippi Fred McDowell

Heritage of the Blues

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If any of the commercial labels like OKeh or Paramount had discovered Mississippi Fred McDowell back in the 1920s or 1930s when they were busy putting out 78s by the likes of Charley Patton, Son House, Robert Johnson, and Skip James, he very well might be thought of today as the absolute best of the old Delta and country blues players. His slide tone was as pure, or purer, than any of them, and they were indeed his contemporaries (Robert Johnson was actually seven years his junior), but McDowell had to wait for Alan Lomax to visit Como, Mississippi in 1959 to be discovered. Over the next decade McDowell distinguished himself as a master of the country blues (and country gospel) medium, delivering performance after performance of emotionally balanced versions of the old Delta catalog and turning in breathtaking slide work on both acoustic and electric guitar. This set, which features McDowell alone on guitar with background vocals by Annie Mae McDowell, Fannie Davis, Grace Bowden, and James Collins, is drawn from recordings made by Pete Welding between 1963 and 1968 for Welding's Testament Records imprint.

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