Posted: September 13th, 2008
It’s no secret, the music of Muddy Waters attacks the senses like a vibrator that runs on a Caterpillar engine.
In 1940, Allan Lomax recorded a small time farm hand McKinley Morganfield; later that decade McKinley moved to Chicago, changed his name to Muddy and ‘plugged’ in; everything changed. Elvis might have stolen his hip shake, but no-one could steal Muddy’s ‘mojo’.
So what happened in 1963? Muddy went back to his roots, unplugged, and recorded a stinging ‘voodoo romp’ through the dark Delta entitled Folk Singer. Timeless, nothing plays ‘cooler’ on a hot night or ‘hotter’ on a cold night; you can’t help but transport back in time and feel that the Devil’s just one step behind you.
The whole folk movement was in swing in the early 1960s, if you were ‘hip’ you knew who ‘Mississippi’ John Hurt, ‘Bukka’ White, or Charlie Patton were. Where did Muddy fit in? He recorded this genre bending disc just like he would five years later with his psychedelic church music Electric Mud. Sure it helps when you have Willie Dixon adding that fat back, boogie fuck bass lines to every track, but these tracks resound with an atmospheric touch that’s never been repeated. Each song is quiet and somber with the gut wrenching heart break that’s Technicolor for the black and white folk scene of the 1960s. Muddy’s rendition of Willie Dixon‘s “My Captain” is like Walt Whitman with balls, the only thing missing is the crickets in the background. Adding to the ‘puberic’ testicle drop are Buddy Guy who eloquently fills any voids Muddy leaves and Clifton James, who’s expressionistic drumming counters the crushing notes of Dixon with splashes of color. Buddy Guy’s opening riffs on “Good Morning Little School Girl” cry out with that “I’m legally too old for you, but I can’t stop myself” mentality; guitar strings weren’t made to bend that far. Counter that with the gorgeously subtle reading of “Feel Like Going Home” and your back with Muddy on a porch on a hot summer night in the Delta.
Something of note is the transfer from the master tapes. The quality of the disc comes from out of nowhere. Few ‘blues‘ discs, infact few ‘modern recordings’ capture the moment like this. Every ‘blues‘ release needs to take note from this recording, ‘stereophonic’, tonal, and deep, this release is a powerhouse.
If your looking for a quintessential blues disc this is it. If you get off hearing musicians stripped down and seeing what they’re made off look no further.
Ravi Shankar Like.
- Muddy Waters – Guitar, Vocals
- Buddy Guy – Guitar
- James Cotton – Harmonica
- Willie Dixon – Bass, Producer
- J.T. Brown – Clarinet, Sax (Tenor)
- Francis Clay – Drums
- Clifton James – Drums
- Sammy Lawhorn – Guitar
- S.P. Leary – Drums
- Milton Rector – Bass
- Otis Spann – Piano
- Pee Wee Madison – Guitar
- My Home Is in the Delta (Waters) – 3:58
- Long Distance Call (Morganfield/Waters) – 3:30
- My Captain (Dixon) – 5:10
- Good Morning Little School Girl (Williamson) – 3:12
- You’re Gonna Need My Help (Morganfield/Waters) – 3:09
- Cold Weather Blues (Morganfield) – 4:40
- Big Leg Woman (Temple) – 3:25
- Country Boy (Waters) – 3:26
- Feel Like Going Home (Morganfield/Waters) – 3:52
- The Same Thing [*] (Dixon) – 2:57
- You Can’t Lose What You Never Had [*] (Morganfield) – 2:46
- My John the Conqueror Root [*] (Dixon)
- Short Dress Woman [*] (Brown)
- Put Me in Your Lay Away [*] (Welch)
- Put Me in Your Layaway [*]