THE MISSISSIPPI (2CD), Accords Croises (AC156/57)
Big Jack Johnson, Zion Harmonizers, Spider John Koerner, Leo Welch, Kermit Ruffins, L. C. Ulmer, Rebirth Brass Band, Jimmy ‘Duck’ Holmes, Magnolia Sisters, Little Freddie King, Como Fife And Drum Band, South Memphis String Band and more…
The Mississippi River flows from the Great Lakes region all the way to the Gulf Of Mexico and passes through a wide variety of cities, towns and rural communities, In doing so, it interacts with a whole cornucopia of people and, by extension, has influenced, and continues to influence, many musical styles and idioms.
Across this massively impressive 28 track compilation, the extent of this musical variety is given full expression. It includes representative, as well as wonderfully impressive and enjoyable, slices of many of the divergent styles that have made up American music for generations. Furthermore, the offerings are almost all of a relatively recent vintage, demonstrating that the musical traditions that evolved around the Mississippi over many years continue to be vibrant and relevant to this day. Incorporated herein are tremendous examples of delta blues, Cajun and zydeco, New Orleans jazz, gospel, folk, swamp pop and much more besides.
The set gets off to a thumping start with an electric blues number (and near-Howlin’ Wolf pastiche) about Hurricane Katrina from Big Jack Johnson And The Cornlickers. Some other corking inclusions that dedicated Red Lickers may already be familiar with are the North Mississippi gospel blues sides from both Leo Welch and Reverend John Wilkins (both courtesy of Fat Possum/Big Legal Mess albums), contemporary juke blues from Big A & The All-Stars (from Broke & Hungry’s superb We Juke Up In Here) and the contemporary delta blues of Little Freddie King (from Messin’ Around The House on Madewright) and Jimmy ‘Duck’ Holmes (Broke & Hungry).
Moving beyond blues related numbers, other highlights can be found anywhere you look. Kermit Ruffins Treme Mardi Gras is an enlivening stew of New Orleans jazz, funk, rap, soul and rock and is guaranteed to get your butt rockin’, as will the Rebirth Brass Band’s more traditional, but no less lively, New Orleans street jazz on I Like It Like That. Mixing traditional folk with Cajun, Cedric Watson’s La Vieille Chanson de Mardi Gras is another up-tempo number that hits the spot every time.
On the quieter and more reflective numbers, Afrissippi’s Nduumandii/Hands Off That Girl beautifully blends Mississippi delta blues stylings with African blues patterns across six gorgeous minutes. The Jones Sisters acapella gospel singing on Talk With Jesus and The Magnolia Sisters old-time Cajun harmonies on L’Annee de Cinquante – Sept are both subtle delights that end far too soon.
The oldest track included here, both in terms of the musical traditions and the date of recording, is the Como Fife And Drum Band’s on Punky Tony (recorded in in 1967 and previously available on the sensational George Mitchell Collection, a 7CD set on Fat Possum). The atmosphere evoked by this spine-chilling music encourages reflections on the Mississippi’s influence on the creation and operation of the slave trade so many years ago.
And rounding off this special offering is the packaging, set within a nice hardback book format is a 28 page booklet that provides (in English and French) a short introduction to the concept of the set and short informative individual portraits of each featured artist.