It’s unquestionably unfair to the younger Mr. Morganfield, but comparisons are inevitable; as the son of a true titan of twentieth century music, it’s only natural that he’d be measured, at least to some degree, against his famous father. Muddy Waters, after all, virtually personifies Chicago-style blues.
Held against such (impossibly) high standards, Mud Morganfield acquits himself admirably. Granted, he lacks the innate authority that came so naturally to Muddy, and his voice isn’t quite as rich and deep as dad’s. But as a modern-day bluesman he’s crafted a solid, unpretentious collection that stands just fine on its own.
True, there aren’t too many surprises here. Apart from instrumental solos that provide a bit of room for practitioners to strut their stuff, Chicago blues isn’t a genre famed for experimentation or innovation, and it’s virtually impossible to think of any way to improve it without diminishing it.
Morganfield has recruited a dream team for the project, including Windy City stalwarts Rick Kreher and Billy Flynn on guitars and drummer Kenny ‘Beedy Eyes’ Smith (whose own father was a long-time member of Muddy’s band), with Harmonica Hinds and Bob Corritore sharing harmonica duties. Also on hand is keyboard player Barrelhouse Chuck, a modern master of blues piano capable of playing in any style he chooses. His piano work sparkles throughout, but on a handful of tracks he opts for wheezy organ that sounds like a throwback to the psychedelic sixties. It's a bit distracting given the disc's otherwise 'traditional' sound, at times veering perilously close to cheesy.
Apart from the organ, though, most of the disc sounds pretty familiar, especially to anyone who’s listened to Muddy’s music – basic, no-frills meat-and-potatoes twelve-bar blues. Supporting players are well-versed in the idiom, contributing understated performances that always put the ensemble sound first and foremost– there’s no grandstanding and no flashy solos, just lean, muscular playing that never wastes a note.
Material is primarily original, with Morganfield responsible for seven of the disc’s dozen tracks. He does a more than credible job on “Can’t Lose What You Never Had,” the only song by his dad, and band contributions include Flynn’s “Money (Can’t Buy Everything)” and Corritore’s “Go Ahead And Blame Me,” both workmanlike compositions that fit right in. (The title track, borrowing more than a bit from Willie Dixon, comes from Studebaker John – a prime example of how blues has always been something of a sharable oral tradition, possibly the last of its kind).
On the whole this is a fine, if somewhat short of spectacular, outing - solid, dependable working class blues for everyday life. The sheer vocal charisma that Muddy exuded effortlessly might not be quite as evident, but the resemblance between Mud and his famous father is uncanny, and he’s got the phrasing and delivery down pat. A few more fireworks might help Mud to stand out a bit more and establish his own signature sound, but this is a fine effort that definitely adds to the Morganfield musical legacy.
Muddy would undoubtedly be very proud indeed …