Mississippi Fred McDowell

You Got to Move

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One of the tragedies of the 1960s blues revival was that it caught so many of the veteran participants so far past their prime, that it was impossible for them to reveal more than a shadow of what they'd been when their reputations were made. Luckily, there were a few to whom that didn't apply, and Mississippi Fred McDowell was one of them. This CD captures him about a decade after his initial emergence from rural Mississippi, at the Gaslight Cafe in New York, playing a show with Tom Pomposello accompanying him on bass. McDowell was in his late fifties at the time, and quietly reveling in the career which had suddenly gotten him gigs in places he'd only ever read about (if that), and he was still in good health at the time -- and in excellent voice and musical form. A rollicking "Shake 'Em on Down" opens the show and gives way to an ominous "I'm Crazy About You Baby," before he takes us through his highly stylized version of "John Henry," which is five minutes of killer guitar. It's followed by "You Got to Move," which is the highlight of this consistently excellent album, and McDowell's raspy, worn vocal textures will instantly make anyone forget the sincere effort at a cover by the Rolling Stones, which was roughly contemporaneous with this performance as a commercially released recording. The sound is consistently good throughout this recording, and the annotation -- though not terribly specific about the date or the performance -- gives a good account of McDowell's life and career.

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