By John Kessler
Most blues started in the country before becoming urbanized, and Bukka White brought his brand of Mississippi blues to Chicago in the 1930’s and 40’s.
It is likely that he met and learned from elemental bluesman Charley Patton, and he was known for playing a National steel guitar with a slide. He recorded “Shake ‘Em On Down” in 1937 and established the cutting edge.
Here is a clip of Bukka White performing a different song, but the style is very similar.
Big Bill Broonzy was a key figure in the transition to urban blues, he was a facilitator for other artists, as well as a composer and performer of some important songs like “Key to the Highway.” He actually helped Bukka White get a record deal with Chicago’s Melrose Records. Later on Broonzy became known as more of a folk-blues artist, but when he recorded “Shake ‘Em On Down” in 1940, he was on the cutting edge of the blues.
The North Mississippi All Stars have brought a totally modern sound to the music that originated in their state, and they owe a particular debt to Mississippi Fred McDowell, who also recorded “Shake ‘Em On Down”. Their sound has a distinctive rhythmic drive and a modal simplicity that is based on primal Mississippi blues. “Shake ‘Em On Down” appeared on Shake Hands With Shorty from 2000. They perform live from 2011:
John Alex Mason is a younger bluesman who has taken a modern look backwards at blues, often performing as a one-man-band. He is building on a blues foundation, and adding some subtle touches that show an awareness of today’s sound and studio techniques. He recorded “Shake ‘Em On Down” in 2008. He performs the tune in this 2006 clip:
Here are the complete versions of “Shake ‘Em On Down”