Fred McDowell : The Alan Lomax Recordings


Alan Lomax, whose field recordings captured the sounds that inhabited the nooks and crannies of the world, made one of his most important discoveries in 1959. While on his “Southern Journey” through Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Georgia, and North Carolina, he returned to the Mississippi Hill Country where he had spent time two decades prior and discovered a 55-year-old farmer and blues musician named Fred McDowell. He recorded McDowell at his home on a farm north of Como, Mississippi, then introduced the musician to the rest of the world.

Fred McDowell: The Alan Lomax Recordings documents this meeting with the first recordings of McDowell, remastered and exquisitely presented. Before the musician tacked on “Mississippi” to his name, his humble beginnings are rendered in a manner that incites chills. Classics like “Shake ‘Em On Down,” “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl,” and “When the Train Comes Along” emanate an in-the-moment clarity that is a testament to this bluesman’s talent and to Lomax’s recordings. The background noise  that emerges – laughter erupts during “When You Get Home Please Send Me a Few of Your Lines” – furthers the immediacy of Lomax’s work; he was in the field, finding the pulse of music in communities.

After being discovered by Lomax, McDowell enjoyed a successful career in music, playing shows, making records, and receiving nods from rock and roll greats like the Rolling Stones. While his legacy may be no secret, Fred McDowell: The Alan Lomax Recordings is a breathtaking snapshot of where it all began. It is the closest thing to being there.

Fred McDowell: The Alan Lomax Recordings is out now on Global Jukebox.