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Mississippi Fred McDowell

Shake 'Em On Down


Fat Possum (FP11492)

Shake ‘Em On Down, I'm Crazy About You Baby, John Henry, You Got To Move, Someday, Mercy, The Lovin' Blues, White Lightnin, Baby Please Don't Go.

You've just read about Fred Mcdowell's first recordings in one of our other reviews and now these are his last - made just twelve years later at New York's Gaslight Club in November, 1971.

It opens with McDowell on electric guitar supported by Tom Pomposello on bass and second guitar. Fred introduces the song with the words "you know I don't play no rock'n'roll but this one kinda sound like it" before he cranks up his masterwork Shake ‘Em On Down and rocks the joint with his infectious rhythmic attacking style counterpointed by the sly, shimmering bottleneck runs and funky little licks that only he can play. Pomposello sticks in a few worthwhile licks when the thing gets rocking but really, Fred needs no help when it comes to playing the blues as you'll hear when he eases into the glorious Someday. This one's a slow, brooding piece of magnificence based on Sleepy John's Someday Baby  

Blues and has the anguished howl of the slide guitar finishing off the vocal lines and clearing the path for some of McDowell's trade mark rhythmic moves. 

White Lightnin' is propelled by a Smokestack Lightnin' lick and finds Fred in a contemplative mood, using the rolling guitar as a base as he concentrates on the vocals, mixing traditional themes with his own lyrics. It has a very loose spontaneous, almost improvised feel about it as does the wonderful Crazy About You Baby where Fred performs a slow blues that sets his anguished blues hollering against an hypnotic guitar lick that just cruises along to be occasionally revitalised by some sneaky little licks in the high register. It's an unusual song for McDowell but as Pete Welding in his review for Living Blues noted it's "by far the best performance on the album, an especially lovely, resilient, slow blues played and sung with great feeling with the bass guitar adding to the music's effectiveness by giving it a vaguely ominous quality". I agree but I have to say that the rest of the material on this CD comes damn near - especially his rockin' versions of You've Got To Move and Baby Please Don't Go.

Although this album has been issued previously on Labor and Tomato it's not been available for years. Thanks Fat Possum! I'm so glad to see you back on the blues scene putting out CDs of this quality.

Review first posted to this website in February 2011

Review Date: April 2018

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