Mississippi Fred McDowell

Live in New York

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His motto was "I do not play no rock & roll," and Mississippi Fred McDowell proceeds to play the "straight and natural blues" throughout this live engagement in New York City. When introducing "Shake 'Em on Down," which opens the set, he adds the qualification, "but it kinda sounds like it." Good point. "Shake 'Em on Down" and "Baby Please Don't Go," which concludes it, really do rock even if they don't quite qualify as rock & roll. As McDowell adds, before launching into the sad tale of "John Henry," "Blues is a feeling, and I really feel what I'm playing." Clearly, labels didn't mean much to the Delta bluesman, although he does draw a distinction between the blues and spirituals (pronounced "specials" in his deep Southern accent) prior to performing "Mercy." Blues, he notes, come from what he knows, whereas spirituals come from the heart. Honest and forthright to a fault, McDowell confesses that he hadn't been intending to play "You Got to Move" (popularized by the Rolling Stones on Sticky Fingers), because he's tired of it. But if it's what the audience wants, he'll be happy to give it to them. And that he does, gracing the enthusiastic crowd with a laid-back but far from perfunctory reading. McDowell certainly took his obligation to his fans seriously, and this entire performance is a fine example of that ethos (it certainly didn't take much coaxing on their part to get him to play one more song, the aforementioned barnburner "Baby Please Don't Go").

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