Reviewed by Taf Rock for MPM
Mississippi MacDonald doesn’t just sing the blues, he doesn’t just play the blues, he knows and feels the blues. If a listener unfamiliar with the blues asked this reviewer what the blues was I would hand them a copy of this album and say ‘Give this a listen, this IS the blues’.
For those unfamiliar with MacDonald he has been playing guitar since the tender young age of 11 and hails from London. Adopting his childhood nickname (he was the only classmate that had been to the USA) he more then justifies using the Mississippi name given his frequent travels overseas traversing the US blues circuit, meeting amongst others Pinetop Perkins, B.B. King and Willie ‘Big Eyes’ Smith on his journeys.
Citing blues legends such as Albert King, Albert Collins and Freddie King amongst his influences it comes as no surprise that MacDonald consistently produces high quality soulful blues such as this album I find before myself today.
In 2021 MacDonald signed for APM Records and this is a re-release of his Do Right, Say Right debut album for the label with the addition of five bonus tracks. MacDonald is joined on the original recordings by Elliot Boughen on bass, Mark Johnson-Brown on drums and Lucy Dearing on backing vocals. Phil Dearing produced the album and is also responsible for keyboards and rhythm guitar.
I WAS WRONG – Starting as we mean to continue with horns and soulful blues guitar there is no doubting the direction of this album. MacDonald has ‘got something to tell’ in typical blues breaking-up storyline fashion. He’s made a mistake, his ‘honey… walked out the door’. The ‘stinging cry’ of the guitar amplifying the despair of MacDonald’s heartfelt and passionate vocal, complimented by Phil’s sterling soothing keyboards throughout this delightful opener.
Someone, it seems, doesn’t appreciate MacDonald’s blues style of music. He pleads his case – ‘I work hard with this guitar’ but ‘she says I don’t like your blues … I don’t like how you’re singing – I HEARD IT TWICE‘. She continues ‘you think you’re a bluesman’, MacDonald don’t just think he’s a bluesman he IS a truly authentic bluesman. Her words fall on deaf ears as MacDonald defiantly proceeds to unleash several delightful lead breaks fuelled by the lady’s uncomplimentary remarks.
All the complaining in the world – IT CAN’T HURT ME – as the angst from the previous track simply drives MacDonald on to deliver another slab of blues at its finest with a lengthy flurry of six string prowess opening this track. A story of a third party displaying unwelcome attention to MacDonald’s partner unfolds as guitar and vocal in complete unison with glorious keys and horns drive home his warnings for the duration of this track.
MacDonald’s woman wants him to ‘do right, say right, be right’ so here he is with the DRINKER’S BLUES bemoaning the facts trying to ‘clear my head’ at the unearthly hour of ‘five O’clock in the morning’. Superlative backing vocals from Lucy as she emphasises how hard MacDonald has ‘tried to leave’. MacDonald buries his troubles ‘deep in the ground’ and drives the message home with another of his lengthy guitar breaks accompanied by the omnipresent horns and keys.
MacDonald is just as adept on soulful vocal as he is stunning on the fretboard as we settle onto a pew in front of the altar in the church of Mississippi MacDonald and listen intently to him deliver a sermon. ‘Let me take your hand … Who knows what we might find… Close up the door… Draw the blinds … LET ME EXPLORE YOUR MIND‘. The excellent combination of guitar, keys and those soulful vocals taking us on a terrific journey.
Not for the first time on this album MacDonald is quitting but this time he’s venting about the frustrations of leading a gigging life, ‘double booked’, his ‘talent’s been overlooked… ain’t taking no more … inconvenience’ – THAT’S IT I QUIT.
Thankfully MacDonald shows no signs of actually quitting. IF YOU WANT A GOOD CUP OF COFFEE slows things right down. Immerse yourself in possibly the only blues song to mention ‘Digestive Biscuits’ as the opening keyboards and guitar wash right over you. ‘Don’t let your water boil too soon … take it easy… grab yourself a second cup’ as MacDonald spoils us with his exemplary fretwork once again. If the coffee’s as great as these blues I’ll be helping myself to several cups of the finest blend of coffee. I’ll skip the Digestives though.
KEEP YOUR HANDS OUT OF MY POCKET is built on a solid Elliot Boughen bass line. MacDonald is having fun here calling out and even laughing throughout the bursts of guitar that comprise his lengthy but masterful solo. The track culminating with MacDonald advising ‘don’t come back tomorrow with your tail between your legs’.
Originally written and recorded as Your Husband is Cheating On Us by Denise La Salle YOUR WIFE IS CHEATING ON US was covered by Little Milton for 1990’s TOO MUCH PAIN album. MacDonald and the band provide an exemplary run through of this tale of a lover spilling the beans after an affair has spiralled even further into a web of deceit.
The first of our five bonus tracks on this remixed enhanced edition of an already quality album follows. Jim Kimberley taking over drum duties on these extra tracks. Recorded at Austin, Texas this version of BALLAD OF PAT HARE is available for the first time here in any format and sees MacDonald partnering with American singer/harmonica player The Reverend Shawn Amos as we tell the story of the once in-demand guitar player who accompanied a multitude of blues greats including Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters. He wrote ‘I’m Gonna Murder My Baby’ in 1953 and then proceeded to do just that a decade later! Handclaps and backing vocals aplenty throughout this version of a song originally found on MacDonald’s 2015 American Accent album.
ZZ Hill’s (SOMEONE ELSE IS) STEPPIN’ IN was recorded in Memphis and features band leader Benny Turner (brother of Freddie King). Available here in physical format for the first time, horns once again play a large part on this track as Benny and MacDonald take turns on lead vocal.
EVERYBODY KNOWS ABOUT MY GOOD THING is another ZZ Hill song. This time a slow blues number introduced with stunningly sweet blues guitar from MacDonald before in turn the postman, neighbour and butcher spill the beans. Another excellent vocal performance from MacDonald.
The title track of MacDonald’s 2014 debut album DEVIL’S CHAIN is next up. This version was recorded in Glasgow and features Scottish singer Kerri Watt. ‘Every dollar you earn is a link in the devil’s chain’. MacDonald takes the first verse before Kerri takes over for the second.
TALKING A LITTLE RAIN – a previously unavailable live recording from this year recorded at New Beaconsfield Hall in Shipton-under-Wychwood with Phil Dearing on second guitar. The song originated on the 2019 album This Is How It Is. This slow blues the perfect finale to a truly magnificent album demonstrating the tightness of the Mississippi MacDonald band live on stage.
‘Do Right Say Right’ – grab yourselves a copy of this stunning blues and soul infused album and spread the word. Mississippi Macdonald is the real deal.
The album is available for purchase either on Bandcamp https://mississippimacdonald.bandcamp.com/album/do-right-say-right-special-edition-2
Or via Mississippi MacDonald’s website https://mississippimacdonald.com/records-and-merch/