Mississippi Fred McDowell

I Do Not Play No Rock 'n' Roll

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Mississippi Fred McDowell's performance on this 1969 LP is classic and retains all of its spiky edginess. Even though blues purists griped because it was the first recording where the previously acoustic McDowell played electric guitar, his lines are so stark, spare, and jagged that the fullness and volume the instrument provides works perfectly with his hardcore Delta approach. McDowell is in wonderful voice and exuberant spirits throughout, spinning lively stories on the nine-minute "Everybody's Down on Me," where he doesn't start playing guitar or singing until four minutes into the track. The raconteur expresses, as well as explains, the album's title on the opening version of Big Joe Williams' "Baby Please Don't Go," the session's only cover. The rhythm section that caused such commotion on the album's initial release remains ensconced in the background, and the drummer's contributions are so subtle as to be almost inaudible. This keeps the focus on McDowell, whose guitar work is stunning, complex, and emotionally moving. He spins quicksilver slide runs that echo and answer his sung lines like he's been plugged in all his life. Smoother and less abrasive than some Fat Possum artists, McDowell nonetheless exudes frightening power when he hits his stride on the jagged "61 Highway" and his version of "The Train I Ride," complete with chugging chords and "Mystery Train" verses. A perfect place to learn about Mississippi Fred McDowell since it includes both "Kokomo Me Baby" and "You Got to Move," two of his most popular tracks. I Do Not Play No Rock 'n' Roll is an essential part of any Delta blues lover's collection.

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