Good news — the old Muddy Waters sound is back!
Muddy was one of the founders of the Chicago Blues sound, and his original line-up of guitars, piano, bass and drums is present on this album in full force. It was cut in Chicago last year using Muddy’s working band, and though the genius of late pianist Otis Spann and harpman Little Walter are still missed, the present band stomps right along. Vocally, Muddy hasn’t sounded this good in years — he’s singing like he means it, and his voice is full of much of the old power.
Of the ten titles included, four are new. “Mudcat” is a warm-up band number with some nice piano work by Joe Perkins, while “C.C. Woman” is. Muddy’s reworking of the classic “C.C. Rider.” “What Is That She Got” is delta-styled and features Muddy’s slide guitar, along with harp by “Joe Denim.” (In the pseudonymic contract-hopping tradition, where sidemen show up on other peoples’ records under names like “Friendly Chap” and “Dirty Rivers,” this would probably be James Cotton, who worked with Muddy several years before going solo.) “Strange Woman” is a reworking of the old “Mattie Mae” blues, taken here slow and heavy.
Two tracks were originally released as Chess singles. “Blow Wind Blow” comes from the Fifties and features a nice piano break by Perkins. “Country Boy” was one of the earliest Chess sides (it was issued on 78 rpm, remember them?) and the version here is surprisingly strong, considering some twenty years have passed. Muddy is on slide guitar again, and harpist Paul Oscher does a commendable job of approaching the intense harp accompaniment that Little Walter provided on the original version.
The remaining tracks are blues standards; Jimmy Reed’s “You Don’t Have To Go,” which builds nicely, T-Bone Walker’s “Stormy Monday Blues,” Sonny Boy Williamson II’s “Nine Below Zero,” and finally, the jumpingest track on the album, John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom.” Muddy comes close to Hooker’s menacing vocal style, and the band really jumps, alternating rhythm and stride choruses.
All in all, it’s a rainy night sounding, laid-back album with the emphasis on good solid blues. Though not as fiery as the Live at Newport LP, everybody is in tune, and the mix is good.
Muddy is one of the last of the original electric bluesmen, but this album is no museum piece, and it’s a fine representation of the work of a real giant in blues. There is an English super-session album coming up soon, — but here’s your chance to cop the real thing. Why wait?