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May 1999

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Buy Big Bill Morganfield's CD today

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Big Bill Morganfield
Rising Son
Blind Pig

Big Bill Morganfield - Rising SonAs soon as I received the debut album from Big Bill Morganfield, I just knew it had to be my Pick Hit for this month. The historical significance of the first recorded notes from the son of the great Muddy Waters alone qualifies this disc as an important release. I only hoped that the music on Rising Son would hold up to my expectations. Fortunately it does, and then some!

It's important to note that I will NOT compare young Morganfield's musical talents to those of his father. That just wouldn't be fair. Muddy was arguably the greatest bluesman of all time. Instead, I prefer to judge Rising Son on its own merits.

Despite my refusal to compare Morganfield to his father, this CD has a heavy Muddy Waters feel to it throughout. First, it was produced by Bob Margolin, who played with Muddy during the 1970s, and is still the most devoted disciple of his music. Margolin also plays guitar, and is joined by fellow Muddy band mates Pinetop Perkins (piano), Paul Oscher (harmonica) and Willie Smith (drums). Veteran Chicago bassman Robert Stroger rounds out the band. You just won't find a better backing ensemble than this collection of musicians.

Morganfield has a deep, resonant, and sometimes gruff voice, well suited to the material on Rising Son. His vocal delivery will continue to improve as he gains experience. He also plays nice slide guitar on a couple of cuts, his own "Left Hand Blues" and the title cut. There are two other original compositions on the CD, proving that Morganfield also has a future as a songwriter.

One of the highlights of this CD for me is the excellent harp playing of the vastly underrated Paul Oscher, who was one of Muddy's lesser-known band members. (Be sure to check out the reviews of Oscher's two independent releases, Knockin' On The Devil's Door and The Deep Blues Of Paul Oscher). He really turns loose on the frantic "I Just Keep Lovin' Her" and Howlin' Wolf's "Baby How Long." The interplay between Oscher and Perkins on the latter tune is wonderful.

Margolin gives us a heavy dose of his great slide playing on the dirge-like version of "The Same Thing," then again on Muddy's "Screamin' & Cryin."

The history of the blues was greatly enriched by the contributions of Muddy Waters. Now, too, the future looks bright with the debut of Big Bill Morganfield.

--- Bill Mitchell

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