Friday, December 14, 2007

No. 280: Folk Singer

Band: Muddy Waters
Album: Folk Singer
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: Paired with a fantastic band, Muddy Waters' archetype bluesman -- older, wronged and soulful -- puts in one of his strongest efforts. Stripped of his electric guitar, Waters moves up and down the neck of the guitar while wailing in his trademark croon.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: The album is remarkably short, otherwise, it should be higher.
Best song: Waters' own "My Home is in the Delta" is brilliant, as well as Willie Dixon's "My Captain."
Worst song: I'm not in love with "Big Leg Woman."
Is it awesome?: Yes, yes, yes.

There are supergroups and there are SUPERgroups. The band Muddy Waters assembled for his 1963 album was an example of the latter. Waters played guitar and sang, Willie Dixon played bass, Buddy Guy played guitar and Clifton James played the drums. To put it in late-1960s rock and roll terms, that'd be like having Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, John Entwistle and John Bonham playing in a band together. Um. Wow.

And it shows, by the way. I've not heard a blues record that sounds like it is doing so much with so little. Despite the acoustic premise, all four members of the band tear their instruments apart sounding like the best of any Delta blues players (because, um, they are).

There aren't a ton of Waters or Dixon tunes on here, but it doesn't really matter. The songs are almost secondary to the skill in which the quartet plays them.


"Folk Singer" has an odd history in that Chess was worried that the Bob Dylans of the world were going to drive electric bluesmen out of business. So, the label convinced Waters to record "Folk Singer" in order to capitalize on the growing folk and folk-rock scene.

Nevertheless, this is the type of album that makes me glad I'm doing this project. It's amazing.

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