|Flood photos from The Big Picture, more at www.boston.com|
Mississippi Fred played slide guitar in a way that sends chills down my spine and sang with a voice every bit as evocative as any of the better known blues players. Unknown outside of the hill country just north of the Mississippi Delta until Alan Lomax recorded him around 1960, McDowell made up for lost time by recording over a dozen records within a dozen years before cancer took him. A case of better late than never, but still makes you wonder what could've been if he'd been discovered sooner.
Mississippi John's blues had a folkier sound to them but were no less intense in their way, if you pay attention. In songs such as Stackolee and Nobody's Dirty Business, there's a subtly powerful contrast between the violence of the lyrics and the delicacy of Hurt's voice and acoustic finger-picking.
The current condition of much of the U.S. south is the stuff of which the blues are made. Though it's hard not to think that, thanks to artists like Mississippi Fred and John, we've got enough already.