Saturday, October 3, 2009

Mississippi Fred McDowell - I Do Not Play No Rock and Roll (1969)

I defy anyone not to tap a foot or even jump up and dance a down home jig or two when listening to this classic blues double album. Mississippi Fred McDowell, explains as he’s warming up to play, that he’s not from Mississippi, but just outside Rossville, Tennessee, and that he ‘don’t play no rock and roll, just straight and nat’chal blues’. These are not words of defiance, but definition from a man who had worked to define the sound of Southern Blues in his most creative years. I DO NOT PLAY NO ROCK AND ROLL was McDowell’s first electric guitar recording, and it’s amazing how easy he makes it sound. With a stripped down rhythm section made up of only a bass, and using an old bone to create his distinctive slide guitar, McDowell proves himself nothing less than a master on this album. There is a sense of storytelling that leaps the decades as McDowell explains himself and his music, even gives background on some of the characters he uses in his songs. His renditions of the classics, such as ‘Kokomo Me Baby’ and ‘Baby, Please Don’t Go’, are what the Blues is all about: Sexual, grinding, rhythmic, and soul stirring in their simplistic intensity. Here is a man who understood the importance of spacing, simplicity, and story.
There’s a reason for the album’s title. Throughout the collection he attempts to show a late 60s audience, steeped in ever-evolving rock and roll musical stylings, that there is a still-vibrant music style older than all of Led Zeppelin’s and The Beatles’ catalogues- that his music is a living thing that can still cull forth old dreams and recollections of a lost era of tunes. This is music stripped of all rock and roll pretensions, soul sweet and perfect.
Blues enthusiasts, or even someone who is curious about them, I DO NOT PLAY NO ROCK AND ROLL is essential listening.


There are over 144 albums available from this artist- too many to list here practically.

Sadly, McDowell has no official web site, but there is a great MySpace to visit and meet other McDowell fans

--Nickolas Cook

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