Mississippi Fred McDowell lays down Delta blues as though time pretty much stood still. Discovered by Alan Lomax in the late '50s, his career as an authentic bluesman took off in the '60s, thanks to Arhoolie. The Best of Mississippi Fred McDowell showcases the singer's gritty vocals and slide guitar on some of his best '60s work. The power of "Fred's Worried Life Blues" and "Write Me a Few of Your Lines" resonates deep in the bones, while forceful versions of "Good Morning Little School Girl" and "You Gotta Move" strip away a hundred rip-offs. These cuts also feature McDowell's instrument of choice, the acoustic guitar. While resistant to new currents, he nonetheless plugged in on occasion. Earth-shaking electric cuts like "Levee Camp Blues" and "Meet Me Down in Froggy Bottom" rumble and hum. Even with a band, though, McDowell reminds one more of Lightnin' Hopkins than Muddy Waters. He remains rooted in the Delta. When he delivers a bit of blues, like "My Baby," he reaches deep and finds something elemental. McDowell opens two live cuts by saying "I don't play no rock & roll stuff," and then offers fine takes on "Shake 'Em on Down" and "Louise." The Best of Mississippi Fred McDowell serves up a taste of the Delta, honest and true, and impresses as a fine introduction to a great bluesman.
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AllMusic Review by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.