Rolling Stone (3/10/94, p.67) - "...There aren't too many blues albums that qualify as audiophile recordings, but Muddy Waters FOLK SINGER surely does. A wonderfully intimate session, it delivers Waters' voice in all its power and subtlety, while rendering his guitar work...with such vivid realism, you would think you were sitting in the studio...."
Personnel: Muddy Waters (vocals, guitar); Buddy Guy, James "Pee Wee" Madison, Sam Lawhorn (guitar); James Cotton (harmonica); J.T. Brown (tenor saxophone, clarinet); Otis Spann (piano); Willie Dixon, Milton Rector (bass); Clifton James, S.P. Leary (drums).
Recorded at Tel Mar Recording Studios, Chicago, Illinois in September 1963. Originally released on Chess (1483). Includes liner notes by Ralph Bass and Mary Katherine Aldin.
The title and cover photo of this 1963 recording were an attempt to cash in on the burgeoning American folk revival, but this is pure acoustic blues. Muddy began his career as a Robert Johnson-style solo acoustic performer, and the tunes on FOLK SINGER hark back to those days. He's accompanied sparsely by Willie Dixon, drummer Clifton James and a young Buddy Guy, who provide a stark, deliberate backdrop for Muddy's rich vocal and expressive bottleneck guitar work. The richness of Muddy's baritone is showcased effectively here, with more room than usual for his voice to resonate.
The low-key setting allows Muddy to explore a fuller dynamic range as well. From the romantic yearning of "Long Distance Call" to the fatalism of the chain gang song "My Captain," Muddy's voice expresses entire worlds of emotion with only subtle dynamic changes. On FOLK SINGER's more downhearted cuts, there's a doomy, ominous quality that rivals the deepest emotional journeys of John Lee Hooker. By scaling down, Muddy managed to make his songs, guitar and voice seem exponentially magnified. Though it's one of his quietest albums, FOLK SINGER screams with naked emotion.
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