Mississippi Fred McDowell
“Mississippi” Fred McDowell was born and grew up in Rossville, Tennessee (pop. 291), a small farming community just east of Memphis and just north of the Mississippi border. The “Mississippi” designation came later in life, after he moved down to Como, Mississippi (pop. 1,391), about 40 miles south of Memphis on the 51 Highway, in his late thirties. McDowell was born about 1904 or 1905, and worked most of his life as a farm laborer, mill worker, and tractor driver. He played music at country dances and juke joints, though as he says, “I wasn’t making money from music… sometimes they’d pay me, and sometimes they wouldn’t.”
McDowell continued to perform blues in the north Mississippi style much as he had for decades, sometimes on electric guitar rather than an acoustic guitar. He was particularly renowned for his mastery of slide guitar, a style he said he first learned using a pocketknife for a slide and later a polished beef rib bone. He ultimately settled on the clearer sound he got from a glass slide, which he wore on his ring finger
Blues is a musical genre known as the folklore of African-American musicians. Its origins are associated with the southern states of the USA, that is the region conventionally called the “deep south”. The very name of the genre (sadness, despair) is related to its nostalgic form, also in the textual layer. Blues pieces touch male-female relationships as well as feelings and emotions (love, loneliness, faithfulness, jealousy). However, blues performers often sing about freedom, work and travel. The songs also feature social criticism relating mainly to racial inequality and political issues.
Many artists are inspired by blues music and combine it with other styles. In this way, such musical mergers as punk blues, soul-blues or blues-rock. The popularity of this genre in the USA has led to the emergence of regional varieties, such as Louisiana, New Orleans, Texas and Detroit blues. There are also factions characteristic of other countries – British blues and African blues.
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