Tom Pomposello was a blues purist, who didn’t think the blues was pure. He sure believed in the purity of the men and women who made and listened to the blues. And sure, he thought the music performances he loved were pure. He trusted in the function, but he was flexible to the form. If you ever heard his defense of Fred McDowell playing the “country” blues on electric guitar you know what I mean. Blues was a living, breathing music, he figured. It didn’t stay frozen before the advent of recording, and it shouldn’t have after. It was a music that had constantly absorbed all that was great from its contemporary settings, and whatever was relevant to the audience would stay.
So, it was no surprise —though it was a bit of a shock— when Tom emailed me this track to see what I thought. Geez, I thought it was great. It’s never been released anywhere, so heads up.
It sure is nothing like you’ve ever heard before. Try it, you’ll see. A holy alliance of a legendary country blues musician and his student, mentor, and friend, the tracks were recorded in the winter of 1971 (they were, in fact, Fred’s last recordings before he passed away in 1972), and overdubbed/remixed in 1998 by Tom (also his last project before he passed away in 1999) and Lenny Kravitz’s partner, composer/producer/mixer Dave Baron.
The 26 years between sessions is the secret sauce.
After recording Mississippi Fred McDowell’s last album, Tom Pomposello asked Fred for some coaching at a demo session. Fred wanted to sing along with Tom’s guitar, and Tom, nervous about his still forming skills thought he’d record them on two tracks, so decades in the future he could re-record his guitar when he might be good enough to stand next to a master. The tracks sat on the shelf while Tom built his talent, skills, and career to world class level.
When the time came to dust off the box of tape almost 30 years later, it occurred to Tom that to recreate a blues track would not add anything to anyone’s life. He was as enamored as ever of Fred and wanted to continue his lifelong mission to introduce this great man to new generations. Alongside master producer Dave Baron he decided to deconstruct and rebuild the blues for the moment. Tom wiped his original guitar, and with Dave’s keyboards and Tom’s electric Dobro and harmonica, he lovingly rebuilt the classic blues lines interweaving with the beats and the sound of the dance floor. What better way to pay tribute to a music that was, after all, dance music at house parties throughout the Mississippi Delta in Fred’s youth?
There’s irony all the way through these five minutes. This was Fred McDowell’s final recording. And, it was Tom Pomposello’s final recording. Bulldog Blues [Dance Remix] is the lifetime of Fred and Tom’s blues. Enjoy.
Mississippi Fred McDowell: vocals
Honest Tom Pomposello: electric Dobro, harmonica
Dave Baron: keyboards
Produced by Tom Pomposello
Engineered & mixed by Dave Baron