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August 2003

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Muddy Waters
1941-1950
Document Records

Son House
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Document Records

Muddy Waters

These two excellent CDs, released by Document Records, both have alternative titles. In the case of Muddy Waters, it's Library Of Congress Recordings 1941 -1942 & Early Commercial Recordings 1946 - 1950, and for Son House it's The Legendary 1969 Rochester Sessions. Both CDs make a "must have" addition to any serious blues fan's collection, providing a great insight into the work of these two blues stalwarts, both through the music itself, and through the well written sleeve notes.

My own Muddy Waters collection is pretty extensive (or I thought it was), but I had only one of the 24 tracks on this CD --- the 1946 version of "Buryin' Ground Blues" --- making the other 23 tracks a great addition to my collection.

The tracks from 1941 & 1942 were mainly recorded on the Stovall Plantation in Mississippi by the legendary Alan Lomax for the Library of Congress (three tracks were recorded in nearby Clarksdale) and comprise the first 13 tracks on the CD.

It's interesting to hear the rough originals of tracks that later became Muddy Waters standards, such as "You Gonna Miss Me When I'm Gone" and "I Be's Troubled," and to hear Muddy playing with a small group using fiddles and mandolins (The Son Sims Four). Have a listen to "Take A Walk With Me" ("Sweet Home Chicago" with a few different words) where Muddy plays with Son Sims and Charles Berry (Muddy's brother-in-law).

On the version of "Mean Red Spider" included here, Muddy is listed as James "Sweet Lucy" Carter, and it would seem that this is one of the first recordings that Muddy made in Chicago in 1946.

As well as the Muddy solo work, there are some superb line-ups included, with musicians such as Homer Harris, Ransom Knowling, Judge Riley, James "Beale Street" Clarke, Baby Face Leroy, Little Walter etc. showing the formation of the early Muddy Waters band.

There are two versions of "Country Blues" (based on the tune of "Walking Blues") and two versions of "Rollin & Tumblin," listed here as parts 1 & 2, and it's fascinating to listen to Muddy improvising and changing things around on these two tunes.

The recording quality, in the main, is very good, taking into account the recording dates, some of them over 60 years ago!

Son HouseThe Son House CD is really only for die-hard Son House fans, certainly not for beginners.
Son House is a bit of an acquired taste anyway, and this is fairly hard-core stuff.

Having said that, for Son House fans it's an absolute must.
This CD follows the re-discovery of Son House, in 1964 in New York, by Nick Perls, Dick Waterman & Phil Spiro, who had been searching the Mississippi delta for him.

These recordings (one of them including Son's wife Evie on tambourine) were made in his home in Rochester, New York in 1969 by Steve Lobb, just prior to Son's second European tour.

The magic of the man, & his National steel guitar, shines through on tracks like "Shetland Pony Blues," "Mister Suzie Q" & particularly on the all time classic "Preachin' The Blues" (the best version I've heard).

For blues fans used to listening to the like of Robert Cray or Gary Moore, this music might come as somewhat of a shock, but it should be listened to by all blues fans at some time, because this is what the blues is really all about.

The CD contains 12 tracks (plus a "spoken message" ), starting with an incredible 20 minute version of "Son's Blues," and running through a mix of short and long tracks, giving a good idea of what this blues legend was all about.

--- Terry Clear

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