Mississippi Fred McDowell: Live at the Gaslight
Recorded: November 5th, 1971, New York City
By Pete Simonelli July 29, 2009
“Greeted by an eager and excitable crowd, McDowell takes that energy and works off it…”
After more than 40 years being involved in producing stuff for distribution out in the world, it still seems impossible to when I get direct evidence of actual people paying attention. It’s a little easier in this day and age of email, twitter and tumblr comments on my contemporary projects, but when it’s an album from decades ago it still blows my mind (to use a 40 year old phrase).
That’s how I felt when I bumped into writer/bandleader Pete Simonelli’s 2009 review of our Oblivion album Mississippi Fred McDowell: Live in New York (on photographer Ted Barron’s blog Boogie Woogie Flu). In an email exchange I had with Pete the other day he said “It’s a seminal piece of work from a seminal performer and artist. I relish it.” That would have meant the world to Mr. McDowell and the album’s bassist and co-producer (and my partner) Tom Pomposello. It was why Tom worked so hard his entire life to make sure the album stayed available, and I’ve tried to fulfill his wishes.
As I told Pete, I guess that’s what so powerful about the whole recording medium; it allows an isolated man like Fred McDowell to find his way around the world to people forever.
Please check out Pete’s writing about the recording. He captures the mood of the night perfectly, though he was probably was an infant at the time. Thanks Pete, we all appreciate it.
“Several years, and many miles, after his discovery by the great (and sometimes controversial) Blues musicologist, Alan Lomax, Mississippi Fred McDowell’s two sets this night in New York City proved to be the culmination of a long and rich career.
“Greeted by an eager and excitable crowd, McDowell takes that energy and works off it throughout the entire recording. People gleefully heckle and cheer him on, entirely in love with him. It goes on like this throughout the show, McDowell being a consummate showman and kindly host, peppering his tuning breaks with explanations of how the Blues, “and Spirituals, too”, are conveyed to him and thus onto his listeners.”
(Read Pete Simonelli’s entire post here.)
Photograph of Fred McDowell by Lee Friedlander, Senatobia, Mississippi, 1960.