Monday, February 3, 2014

Hard as Freezer Meat

You don't have to listen closely to understand why Fred McDowell needed to keep Jesus on speed dial.

Fred McDowell did get a piece of the 60's blues revival. At the end of the decade, he shocked and horrified the "Blues Community" by hiring a white bass player and making one of the finest records since electricity....I Do Not Play No RocknRoll. Little ironic joke there...lost on no one except the "Blues Community."

I'm pretty sure those twats are guarding his wiki page . There's the obligatory reference to jungle...I mean African roots. It's so know? Best of all is the idea that McDowell would "occasionally" pick up an electric guitar. If that doesn't give you a case of the can put your Ray Ban's in your fedora and set them on fire.

R.L. Burnside, a protege of McDowell, also occasionally played the electric guitar. Here he is as George Mitchell presented him in the late 60's. These recordings are acoustic and they are fabulous.

But here's Burnside on his own time...thankfully, and merely, recorded in the late 70's by Alan Lomax. The bad-ass holding the snowcone is his wife.

There's nothing ideological about it...nobody can hear an acoustic guitar at a fish-fry or block party. The truth of the matter is that these folks occasionally picked up an acoustic guitar to take money from the "Blues Community" on college campuses and at folk festivals.

These were Mississippi Hill Country players. Unlike their ossified cousins in the Delta...they were uncodified, unfettered, unconquered. They were also mostly unknown to the world until the early 90's when Matthew Johnson started Fat Possum Records.

He was writing for Living Blues Magazine...and the label was an expression of his frustration with the "Blues Community." Johnson said "imagine waking up one morning to find that your life's love had been taken over by Dan Akroyd?" They wanted people to hear and know that the Blues was still very much alive...hear what it sounded like when the musicians returned from your coffee shops and tossed the acoustic guitar back in the closet....what he heard on the weekends as a student at Ole Miss. Here's this bit from The Guardian in 2003...a little bit of a leg puller but, not that much of one. *

Jessie Mae Hemphill...dig it.

Sell some onion rings and T-shirts behind that bitches!

Listen to this and tell me if it's the facts of the situation that matter...i'm poor, my woman left me, the bawsman's a dick, etc...or if these facts aren't pointing to a Truth about the poverty of existing in contrast to Existence. There's a reason that so many of them sing about Jesus too.

It's just hard music...that's all. Hard times, hard partyin', hard lovin and hard praying. Hard as freezer meat.

* People's imaginations tend to run wild when they're in The South...especially in Mississippi. It doesn't help that we like to tell stories. I don't know where Richard Grant got the idea that possession of beer in Water Valley is illegal (it may be a dry...but, there are no laws against possession any where) or the f****ing nerve to ask R.L. Burnside if Matthew Johnson was paying him right.

It was also in the Guardian that I read of the 30ft Storm Surge that hit New Orleans during Katrina. For those of y'all playing along....pull up of Louisiana and picture in your mind the &^%$ing wave that would still be 30ft tall when it hit New Orleans. It was the Mississippi Gulf Coast that was hit and erased by the 30ft storm surge.

EDIT: Even though I've given some qualification in the comment below...I've just read back over this and none of it makes much sense. It's like listening to a person having an argument over the they walk in and out of the room.

P.S. If any of you want to contact me by old yahoo email is dead. I have not been able to log on to it since Saturday morning. No keeps asking me for a new password. I can be reached at the new email... thevetcameron at gee mail .


  1. This is one of those posts that will have Martha looking at me like I've got a peanut bush growing from my ear. I've made a very emphatic statement there at the end... Without the preceding few paragraphs that were meant to lead up to it. It happens sometimes. I'm just gonna leave...will patch it up in the next post and hear some more burnside.

  2. Great selection - all new to me, and loved them all. Poor Mrs. Burnside - doesn't look like a great job!
    Over here in the UK, we're always being told that bluesmen who toured Britain in the 50s and early 60s were forced to don farmhand clobber and drag their acoustic guitars out of storage because the Brits wanted rural authenticity, so I did some digging around after reading your post, and discovered this wasn't true. Big Bill Broonzy, for instance, had already forsaken polished urban blues for rural stuff in the US before he turned up here in the late 50s - and the story we've always been told that Muddy Waters had to pretend he'd walked off the cottonfield to tour Britain is also nonsense - he played electric guitar backed by Chris Barber's jazz band from the start and nobody complained (all from this good piece in the Guardian - - I'd always assumed it was British blues purists who insisted on bluesmen pretending to be something they weren't, but from what I've just read and what you wrote, it seems more of an American thing.

    Anyway, fascinating post.

    1. I'm not an anti-purist or whatever it's just some of this crap is so obviously the product of American Studies and Folklorist fantasies. Pedantic's devious and, most frustrating...effective. I didn't even realize that the article I linked was called DELTA FORCE.

      I could eat my car keys...NO G*** ****** ***** NO. Fat Possum is distinctively, decidedly and emphatically NOT Delta anything. Model T was from Greenwood, and the archives contain Delta artists but the label owes everything to the Hill Country. An area that has its own sound and identity.

      Anyway...we'll talk more in the next round.

      Of course, Muddy Waters did come off a plantation...but it was a long time before he toured Britain or anywhere else outside the Delta.