Mississippi Fred McDowell,
I Do Not Play No Rock 'n' Roll
(Capitol, 1969; Fuel, 2000)

The latest CD, I Do Not Play No Rock 'n' Roll, a re-issue of the '69 Capitol recording of blues legend Mississippi Fred McDowell, is a superb collection of blues recordings during McDowell's career. Mississippi Fred preaches the gospel truth about how original blues music is supposed to sound. The album is McDowells way of snubbing his nose at rock groups and their feeble attempts at this genre.

Blues enthusiasts will absolutely love this latest effort, a very special and truly personal album that's being presented to the listener like a unique gift from the artist himself. You'll find a great collection of 14 songs that showcase his gospel sound, such as "Jesus Is On the Mainline," and his blues standards, with "Kokomo Me Baby" and a few original favorites like "You Got To Move." On each track, Mississippi Fred delivers a powerful, emotion-filled slide performance. He shares personal moments with the listener, a final statement before his passing; McDowell explains his personal philosophy about the blues, including a history of his music.

Once pushing the play button, you'll hear the voice of Mississippi Fred McDowell as he introduces himself, then continues with a genuine "one on one" conversation with the listener. It's as if he pulled up a chair right next to you, talking as if you were the best of friends. He explains why he's known as Mississippi Fred McDowell even though his home is in Rossville, Tennessee. ("It sounds good to me," he says.) He moves on, saying, "I do not play no rock 'n' roll, y'all ... just straight 'n' natchel blue. ... The only way to rock Fred is to put me in a rockin' chair!" He talks about his bottleneck-style of guitar playing and how clear it sounds, as he demonstrates with a couple of short licks. He explains how he can make his guitar repeat the same words that he speaks, how he can make his guitar really sing.

After performing the first five tracks, he continues on with his conversation, discussing the early days of blues music, back before it was called the blues. He explains what it means to have the blues, using a couple of his own personal examples. He talks about the pain and confusion when a good friend does you wrong, and also the feeling of frustration and hurt after an argument with his wife. McDowell's answer for both these situations -- to be off somewhere by himself, playing his guitar for as long as it takes, letting all those blue feelings filter through him and into his guitar until he's finally feeling better and satisfied.

This latest recording is a showcase of Mississippi Fred's bottleneck-style, with a full range of emotion heard on each track. We're given a rare opportunity to listen as the blues legend himself, sharing his thoughts and feelings about a style of blues music that's become a part of his persona. The original roots sound of blues is the music of Mississippi Fred, instructing artists like R.L. Burnside to the gospel of the blues, without any rock 'n' roll influence.

I Do Not Play No Rock 'n' Roll is an intimate moment between artist and fan that's frozen in time. This Delta bluesman opens a window to his musical soul, telling it straight while sharing those things that touch his heart. This recording is an honest reflection, a sincere look, at Mississippi Fred McDowell, the man and his music. I consider this album a treasured piece of blues music history, the value of which cannot be measured. The album is a wonderful gift to anyone calling themselves a fan of the blues, given by a legendary blueman who's musical achievements will live on forever.

[ by Pamela L. Dow ]
Rambles: 20 July 2002

Buy it from Amazon.com.