Mississippi Fred McDowell / Johnny Woods

Mama Says I'm Crazy

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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.

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