Muddy Waters - Library of Congress Recordings (1941-1942) & Early Commercial Recordings (1946-1950)
2012 European CD reissue.
Abridged from this album's booklet notes - It is impossible to listen to Muddy Waters‘ first recordings without an awareness of everything that came after. Muddy was part of the burgeoning Chicago blues scene that defined and shaped the approach to amplified music in the 40’s and 50’s. The first tracks on this Document records album come from recordings that Alan Lomax made of Muddy Waters in 1941 – 1942 during a field recording trip on behalf of the Library of Congress and although they are not yet the sounds that became known as Chicago Blues, they are sessions that awoke the professionalism in the young Waters.
At the age of thirteen whilst working as a farm labourer he took up the harmonica and four years later he made the switch to guitar. “You see, I was digging Son House and Robert Johnson.” He was influenced by the regions ‘bottleneck’ style of playing that the Delta bluesmen utilised as an extension of their voices. Within the year Muddy was playing musical accompaniment at country dances, picnics, house parties and other rural gatherings. So by the time Alan Lomax arrived at Stovall’s Plantation, Mississippi, in 1941 to record Muddy, he already had several years of local performing behind him. The first track recorded in the 1941 session was Country Blues a reworking of Walkin’ Blues a song that both Robert Johnson but more importantly Son House, a neighbour, had recorded before. The tracks Country Blues and I Be’s Troubled, a song which concisely details what it is to have the blues, was enough to bring Alan Lomax back to record another session in 1942. These sessions found Muddy Waters playing in Son Simms (generally identified as Charley Patton‘s former fiddle player) string band which also included Percy Thomas and Louis Ford. These recordings provide valuable insight into a poorly documented genre. Take A Walk With Me was probably learned from hearing Robert Lockwood on the radio and Burr Clover Blues which was a tribute to the Stovall family who ran the plantation where Muddy had worked. Charley Berry (Muddy’s brother-in-law) played second guitar on a rewrite of I Be’s Troubled and on You Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone which was to be the basis of a later, commercial, recording.
The exact order of recording of the 1942 performances is uncertain, but the final numbers have Muddy playing solo with two spirituals and another version of Country Blues. Later in 1942 Muddy moved to Chicago and recorded his first commercial release Mean Red Spider. This session and the next takes in songs that looked back to the early 40’s but Muddy’s guitar playing clearly belongs to the future and his singing, compared to the Lomax, Library of Congress recordings, shows a strong projection. Shortly after this session Muddy Waters signed up with Aristocrat Records and had a big hit with I Can’t Be Satisfied. Around this time he also did a session for the Parkway label recording the two part Rollin’ and Tumblin' one of the greatest of all the blues records.
Jack Gittes Copyright 1992 Document Records.
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