Fred McDowell-Furry Lewis
When I Lay My Burden Down
Sutro Park
Street: 12.09.12
Fred McDowell + Fury Lewis = Robert Johnson + Charlie Patton + Lightin’ Hopkins + Blind Willie McTell + Bukka White + Son House
The only true American music is the blues. I always remark that our only birthed art form in this country came from a segment of society that we did everything to oppress, which speaks to the power of the blues. This release is a split record of home recordings of two lifelong bluesmen playing Delta blues unaccompanied by any band—each man with just his voice and guitar. Fred McDowell plays seven haunting songs, including the work-song “John Henry,” which has a wanderlust attitude. McDowell, sometimes called Mississippi Fred, plays the first song he ever learned, “Fat Mama,” which has all the vigor of a curvy girl on the dance floor. Fury Lewis recordings are of slightly better quality than McDowell’s, which allows more of Lewis’ buoyant personality to come through. Lewis’ guitar work is sublime on the spiritual “When I Lay My Burden Down.” Lewis pays tribute to godfather of the blues W.C. Handy by playing “Beale Street Blues,” a song that Lewis says Handy himself taught him. This is a fantastic vinyl release that showcases two almost forgotten talents, in a very candid and intimate way. –James Orme