Had McKinley Morganfield, “Muddy Waters,” never been born, the blues would be vastly different today. Larry “Mud” Morganfield, his 60-year-old, booming-voiced son, damn near channels his dad here, but handles that slippery slope of replica with not only firm footing but a natural skip. This is the sound of Muddy Waters, and an amalgam of the prime incarnations of his band.
Kim Wilson is Morganfield’s perfect foil. Although it may not be in his blood, he too seems predestined to play this music. Ever since he came to prominence leading the original Fabulous Thunderbirds, Wilson’s been wailing with distinction at the altars of the Muddy Waters harp greats: James Cotton, Little Walter, Big Walter, Junior Wells—they all inhabit the sweet, strong and versatile tones now used by Wilson. A backbeat rhythm machine comprised of bassist Steve Gomes and drummer Robb Stupka crackles constantly. Guitarists Billy Flynn and Rusty Zinn, and piano key roller Barrelhouse Chuck play nothing at all groundbreaking, but they are so fine, and sure know their way around deep dish Chicago blues. Recorded live with an old fashioned “house party” atmosphere, Waters warhorses “She’s Nineteen Years Old” and “Trouble No More” come off not only vital, but in crisp fidelity.
Refreshingly, the songs chosen here are largely unexpected ones. Morganfield’s vocal inflections amazing in their likeness to his dad’s, come off better on lesser-known material such as the magnificent “Still a Fool.” All in all, no one should go without some Muddy Waters in their collection. This album succeeds wildly as a reminder, and stands tall all by itself.
– Tom Clarke