May 15, 2011

1 Mississippi, 2 Mississipi

Mississippi's been on my mind lately.  The mighty river's flooding and I've been listening to Delta blues.  The first situation's so stunning and what people in that part of the country are dealing with is so heart-breaking that I can't begin to figure out what to say about it.  Farmland and homes inundated and lost.  Not for the first time, of course--  The Great Flood of 1927 was just as horrendous, but when you see the seemingly passive devastation of water every-freaking-where, it's hard to imagine how anyone can clean up and rebuild from that. 

Flood photos from The Big Picture, more at
As for the music, it's so much easier to think about, so pardon me for shifting gears in that direction.  Two of my latest favorite bluesmen just happen to have been nicknamed for the state that's bordered by the river--  Mississippi Fred McDowell and Mississippi John Hurt. 

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.


Story teller said...

Does the Missisipi flood annually?

KaliDurga said...

I would assume that it does to some degree, but this year's flood is the worst since 1937. And the one in 1927 may have been even more catastrophic.