Mississippi Fred McDowell

First Recordings: The Alan Lomax Portrait Series

  • AllMusic Rating
    9
  • User Ratings (0)
  • Your Rating

AllMusic Review by

In September, 1959, these 14 seminal tracks were recorded by Alan Lomax. Traversing the South with a bulky reel-to-reel tape recorder, this part of his field trip documents the very first recordings (and subsequent "discovery" in folk circles) of McDowell. The recordings were captured outdoors on a front porch, and even though Lomax was recording him at a semi-professional speed on his tape deck (7 1/2 inches per second as opposed to the then-standard 15 ips), seldom did McDowell's subsequent recordings capture this much ambience. Loose and informal, these sides showcase Fred solo and working in tandem with guitarist Miles Pratcher ("I'm Going Down the River," "Shake 'Em On Down," "You're Gonna Be Sorry"), the utterly surreal tissue-paper-and-comb work of Fanny Davis and -- at various times -- his wife Annie Mae ("Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning"), James Shorty ("I Want Jesus to Walk With Me"), Sidney Carter and Rose Hemphill ("When the Train Come Along") on background vocals. As an added bonus for fans and historians alike, ten of the 14 tracks are previously unissued and include some of the best sides Fred ever recorded.

blue highlight denotes track pick