Album Reviews

John Primer

Muddy Waters 100

Artist:     John Primer

Album:     Muddy Waters 100

Label:     Raisin Music

Release Date:     07/24/2015


Few tributes are done as elegantly as this one, from the CD-sized hardcover book containing stunning photography, an essay from Muddy Waters expert, Robert Gordon, to producer Larry Skoller’s notes, to the details about song origin and musicians on each track.  Willie Dixon’s line, “you can’t judge a book by its cover” does not apply here.  After all, with a roster that includes Billy Branch, Gary Clark, Jr., Shemekia Copeland, James Cotton, Derek Trucks, Keb’ Mo’, and Johnny Winter among others;  this is indeed a worthy tribute to one of the most influential musicians of the last century.  The brightest star among this lineup of luminaries though is John Primer.  Guitarist/vocalist Primer has a voice that is remarkably similar to Muddy’s and he has the pedigree too, having played with Muddy until his death in 1983, preceded by long stints with Willie Dixon and Magic Slim.

The backing unit for the most of the tracks is the Chicago Living History band and while there is the appropriate focus on the electric Chicago sound, the album also features acoustic material from Muddy’s early career and the little known singular gospel tune that Muddy recorded, “Why Don’t You Live So God Can Use You”.  Tradition stays intact for the most part, although drum loops and synthesizers appear on a few tracks, attempting with mixed results to create a more contemporary sound.  This heartfelt tribute touches on both widely and lesser known Muddy tunes, usually rendered impeccably.   Standouts include: “Still a Fool” (with Derek Trucks), “I’m Ready” (with Johnny Winter recorded only five weeks before his passing), and “She Moves Me” (with Matthew Skoller on harmonica).  There have already been a couple of strong tributes to Muddy, but rest assured that this is the officially authorized one  – the one that passionate blues fans need to get.

– Jim Hynes

Got something to say?