Mud Morganfield – They Call Me Mud

Mud Morgenfield
Title: They Call Me Mud

Artist: Mud Morganfield

Label: Severn Records

Formats: CD, Digital

Release date: March 9, 2018



They Call Me Mud, the newest release from Mud Morganfield, is one of those albums on which a musician seems to truly come into his own. While the legacy of his father, Muddy Waters, shouldn’t—and very possibly can’t—be extracted from Morganfield’s blues MO, this album showcases his own unique style. Morganfield, after all, came of age in the ‘70s and ‘80s, when music had already evolved from his father’s era of jazz and blues into a world where R&B, soul and Motown ruled. Combine his bass experience with Chicago bands of those eras to his already existing blues foundation and you have Morganfield’s own style at work.

A well-established case of Chicago area musicians add some downhome blues touches to Morganfield’s recording, including Billy Flynn on guitar, Studebaker John on harmonica and backing vocals, Sumito Ariyo Ariyoshi on piano, E.G. McDaniel on bass and Melvin “Pookie Stix” Carlisle on drums. Special guests include Billy Branch on harmonica, Mike Wheeler on guitar and Mud’s daughter Lashunda Williams as a vocalist. There’s a horn section featured on several tunes, and Mud himself plays bass on three tracks.


The signature song, “They Call Me Mud,” is one of those songs that really allow the musicians to show what they love to do best, and in Morganfield’s case, that is his vocalized growl which commands immediate attention throughout. “Who’s Fooling Who?” features Studebacker John on harp and Mike Wheeler on guitar going toe-to-toe. Morganfield also pays tribute to his father on the slide guitar blues “Howlin’ Wolf” and the shuffle “Can’t Get No Grindin’,” where all artists take a solo turn at the wheel. Morganfield and his daughter Lashunda provide a moving duet on “Who Loves You,” a song where Morganfield’s R&B inspiration grooves right in. The final selection, “Mud’s Groove,” is a jazzy instrumental enhanced by Bill Branch’s talents on harp, and is a perfect finale.

“I think it’s some of the best work I’ve ever done yet” proclaims Morganfield. “I feel that with the variety of material I have on here, people will get a chance to hear the other sides of my music.” The collection completely lives up to Morganfield’s claim. Regardless of whether you are an R&B, jazz, soul or blues fan, They Call Me Mud has something special and unforgettable for everyone.

Reviewed by Amy Aiyegbusi

Best of Chess: Original Versions of Songs in Cadillac Records

Title: Best of Chess: Original Versions of Songs in Cadillac Records
Artists: Various
Label: Chess/MCA/UMe
Catalog No.: 001241802
Release Date: Dec. 2, 2008

I haven’t yet had an opportunity to see Cadillac Records, the new biopic about Chicago’s legendary Chess Records, but I’ve already read numerous stories about the many liberties which were taken with the story, as one might expect from a major Hollywood feature film. Nevertheless, I plan to make a pilgrimage to the local theater the minute the movie opens, and I can’t wait to see Beyoncé’s portrayal of Etta James. Here is the official trailer:

A soundtrack from Cadillac Records was released last month, but if you want to hear the original hits in their full glory, check out the new compilation- The Best of Chess Records: The Original Versions of Songs in the Film “Cadillac Records.” This would be a great way to introduce your kids (or students) to blues, R&B, soul, and the roots of rock ‘n’ roll, all in one package. If you have a teenager that’s anything like mine, and they turn their noses up at music that’s not “contemporary,” i.e. familiar, maybe the movie tie-in will peak their interest.  

The CD includes 15 classic Chess tracks, recorded between 1948-1967, that are covered in the movie by Beyoncé (as Etta James), Jeffrey Wright (as Muddy Waters), Eamonn Walker (as Howlin’ Wolf), Cedric the Entertainer (as Willie Dixon), Columbus Short (as Little Walter), and Mos Def (as Chuck Berry).  The bulk of the CD is devoted to Chuck Berry and Etta James, with four tracks each. Berry’s “Maybellene” is certainly one of the highlights- this was his first big hit for Chess in 1955, and is considered one of the seminal early rock ‘n’ roll singles- it quickly topped the rhythm and blues charts, and then crossed over to the pop charts. Muddy Waters and Little Walter are each represented on three tracks, while the great Bo Diddley and Howlin’ Wolf only get one track each.

The complete track listing follows:

1. “No Particular Place to Go” – Chuck Berry
2. “At Last” – Etta James
3. “My Babe” – Little Walter
4. “(I’m Your) Hoochie Coochie Man” – Muddy Waters
5. “I’d Rather Go Blind” – Etta James
6. “I’m a Man” – Bo Diddley
7. “Smokestack Lightnin” – Howlin’ Wolf
8. “Forty Days and Forty Nights” – Muddy Waters
9. “Juke” – Little Walter
10. “All I Could Do Is Cry” – Etta James
11. “Maybellene” – Chuck Berry
12. “I Can’t Be Satisfied” – Muddy Waters
13. “Last Night” – Little Walter
14. “Nadine” – Chuck Berry
15. “Trust in Me” – Etta James
16. “Promised Land” – Chuck Berry

Posted by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

The Blues Roots of the Rolling Stones

Title: The Blues Roots of the Rolling Stones
Artists: Various Artists
Label: Snapper Music
Catalog No.: SBLUECD047
Release date: March 10, 2008

“We got heavily into the blues – Chicago blues particularly because every major, modern blues artist was coming out of Chicago. . . we weren’t writing our own songs then. We were just playing mostly blues & rock ‘n roll-Chuck Berry, Jimmy Reed, Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters stuff.” – Keith Richards

“We used to watch Chuck Berry films over and over and over to see how he would play certain licks. Keith [Richards] and I would go to the cinema like 6 or 9 times just to see the Chuck Berry section. . . to see how he put his hands on the guitar, and how he played this part and this solo.” – Mick Jagger

The Blues Roots of the Rolling Stones is Michael Hendon’s valiant effort to bring together the most formative blues and rock influences on the members of this seminal rock band onto a single disk for Snapper Music’s Complete Blues series. Included among them are, of course, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Elmore James, John Lee Hooker, Chuck Berry, Jimmy Reed, and Bo Diddley, but also Buddy Holly, Slim Harpo, B.B. King, Blind Boy Fuller, Robert Johnson, Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell, and Robert Wilkins.

Far from a smattering of well-known singles from these (mostly) heavily-compiled artists, Hendon’s liner notes make clear that the songs selected for this compilation were chosen carefully. Throughout, Hendon expends great effort to explicitly connect each song to the Stones and thus support the reason for its inclusion – usually either because the Stones frequently performed and/or recorded the song or because it is emblematic of the sound of a particular artist that was an important influence on the band.

Appropriately enough, the disk opens with Muddy Waters’ “Rolling Stone” and closes with another of his classics – “I Want to be Loved” (a version of which appeared as the B side of the Stones’ first single). The songs of Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley formed over half of the Stones’ early set lists, and Chuck Berry’s “You Can’t Catch Me” was also featured on their third album (The Rolling Stones, Now!, 1965). Slim Harpo’s “I’m a King Bee” was featured on the Stones’ first album (England’s Newest Hit Makers, 1964) as was Jimmy Reed’s “Honest I Do.” In addition to this more urban-centered blues/rock spread, I especially like the attention paid on this compilation to the Delta/country blues influence on the Stones’ sound. One of the highlights in that regard is Robert Wilkins’ crackling 1928 recording “Rolling Stone – Part 1.”

Though Stones enthusiasts will undoubtedly notice omissions on The Blues Roots of the Rolling Stones, I think it is a perfect starting point for those who wish to trace the British blues explosion of the early 1960s back to the sounds that inspired it.

Posted by Anthony Guest-Scott

The Blues Legacy: ‘Lost & Found’ Series

Title: Chris Barber Presents The Blues Legacy: ‘Lost and Found’ Series (CD Vol. 1-3)
Artists: The Chris Barber Band with various others
Label: Blues Legacy
Catalog No.: 5067X, 5068X, 5069X
Date: 3/9/2008

Chris Barber is not a household name in the United States blues scene, but he was an incredibly influential figure in Britain’s popular music scene in the 1950s and continues today to be an active performer and bandleader. Barber, a jazz trombonist, was inspired by the King Oliver Creole Jazz Band to form his first Barber New Orleans Band in 1949 at the age of nineteen. A steadfast traditionalist in that sub-genre of jazz, Barber also developed a strong interest in the blues. He thus went to great effort, particularly between the late 1950s and mid-60s, to bring a number of legendary blues performers from the United States to Britain to collaborate in recordings and live concerts with his band.

This latest release from the new British-based Blues Legacy label is framed as “Lost & Found,” an endlessly compelling trope for traditional music of any kind (but particularly, it seems, for the blues); it is the musical equivalent of discovering hidden treasure. Sometimes this is the real deal, however, and sometimes it is fool’s gold (or at least somebody else’s). Thankfully, ‘Lost & Found’ is the former. As is the mandate of liner notes in this ilk, they lay out the story of discovery: Chris Barber came across some old ¼” magnetic tapes that he had believed were lost or erased when he was shipping one of his American cars from storage for restoration. He dug up a number of these recordings, and thus was born the Chris Barber Presents The Blues Legacy ‘Lost & Found’ series, released now on three separate CDs.

A wide variety of influential blues figures are prominently featured on the CDs. Volume 1 (23 tracks) features Sister Rosetta Tharpe with The Chris Barber Band on tracks 1-10 (1957) and Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee on tracks 11-23 (1958). Volume 2 (23 tracks) features Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee alone and with The Chris Barber Band & Ottilie Patterson on tracks 2-6 (1958), Muddy Waters with Otis Spann and The Chris Barber Band on tracks 8-17 (1958), Champion Jack Dupree with The Chris Barber Band on tracks 19-21 (1959) and Louis Jordan with The Chris Barber Band and Ottilie Patterson on track 23 (1962). Volume 3 (29 tracks) features Sonny Boy Williamson with The Chris Barber Band on track 2, and tracks 4-13 (1964), Jimmy Witherspoon with The Chris Barber Band, Humphrey Lyttelton, and Ronnie Scott on tracks 15-17 (1964), Howlin’ Wolf with Hubert Sumlin and The Chris Barber Band on tracks 19, 21, and 23-24 (1964) and Jimmy Witherspoon with The Chris Barber Band on tracks 25-29 (1980).

I think it is necessary for recordings presented as historically important to provide at least brief notes on the time period referenced in the liner notes. The liner notes for all three ‘Lost & Found’ CDs do not provide this bigger picture. While some of this is embedded, the notes are really more a collection of fragmented anecdotes by Barber about the specific performances featured on the CDs. For this reason, I will first offer some context here before moving onto the performances themselves.

At a time of economic hardship (an aftermath of post-WWII reconstruction), British youth became fascinated with the media exports of the booming U.S. economy, including early rock and roll. Barber’s interest in a more traditional style of jazz was a part of his interest in the preservation of historical sounds more generally as well as jazz and its roots more specifically. This personal drive developed into a strong interest in blues and blues-based music from the United States, and in pursuit of his passion, Barber exposed the blues to countless others by organizing concert tours in Britain with many of its most talented artists. Today he stands as a pivotal figure in launching the British blues subculture that quickly blossomed into a historical movement. British blues and the rock that grew out of it forever changed the face of popular music in the United States, Britain, and the all over the world.

So the recordings on these CDs are of immense historical significance – reason alone, for some perhaps, to pick them up – but they are certainly not representative of what was happening more broadly, neither what came before nor after. This is because these CDs bring together an unusual and largely unprecedented mix of performances. Though sometimes performing by themselves, the various blues artists featured here are usually backed by The Chris Barber Band’s tight New Orleans jazz sound! This collaboration is always interesting, and is sometimes even riveting, intense, and powerful – as when Sister Rosetta Tharpe leads Barber’s band on “When the Saints Go Marching In” on Volume 1 (but remember, that is standard rep for New Orleans jazz) or Louis Jordan’s single appearance on the recordings with Ottilie Patterson and the rest of the band on “T’aint Nobody’s Business” on Volume 2. It is, however, at other times jarring, incompatible, and incomprehensible – take Howlin’ Wolf’s rendition of “Howlin’ for My Baby” with Hubert Sumlin and the band or Sonny Boy Williamson with Ottilie Patterson and the band on “This Little Light of Mine” (both on Volume 3).

These CDs, for the most part (sometimes voices are much too low compared to the band, and Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s guitar is inaudible on her solo tracks) sound fantastic. The historically-minded will enjoy their significance and the eclectic-minded will probably get a kick out of the unusual genre-mashing going on here (as I did); for the die-hard blues fans, however, better and more “bluesy” recordings exist for most of the artists featured.

Posted by Anthony Guest-Scott