Muddy Waters 100
John Primer and His Friends
Raisin’ Music Records 2015
Review by David Bowling
Muddy Waters was one of the most influential musicians in American history. He helped electrify the blues, which provided a key element in the development of rock & roll. 2015 marks the centennial of his birth. To celebrate this landmark, former Muddy Waters sideman John Primer and a number of his friends have issued an album of 15 covers of many of Waters classic tunes titled Muddy Waters 100.
There are always good points and bad points to cover albums. Primer, another former sideman Bob Margolin, Derek Trucks, Johnny Winter, James Cotton, Gary Clark Jr. and more are disciples of Waters and bring their passion to the music and give it authenticity. One negative is while many of the covers are traditional, there is some modernization that seems out of place; for example drum loops. There is also the fact that no matter how good the covers may be, the originals are superior and available.
Still, just about any Muddy Waters song in the right setting and played competently deserves a listen.
John Primer is a good blues vocalist and when accompanied by a technically adept slide guitarist, produces music that brings Waters sound into the 21st century. “Still A Fool” with Derek Trucks, “I Be’s Troubled” with Bob Margolin, and “I’m Ready” with Johnny Winter, which was recorded five weeks before Waters death have an energy and passion.
“Rosalie” was an old field recording from 1942 by the Son Sims Four which included Muddy Waters. It is presented traditionally with Steve Gibbons playing the fiddle part originally created by Sims. “Why Don’t You Live So God Can Use You” is another 1942 field recording, which may be Watrs only gospel composition. It is another traditional take spear headed by Primer and Margolin. “Good News” was originally recorded in 1957 and featured James Cotton on harp. Amazingly, 58 years later, Cotton returns to re-create the song and provide it with an important connection to its past.
The album comes with a 40 page CD-size book, which includes a number of original photos of Waters, which should please any fan.
Muddy Waters 100 is an album from the heart and is filled with respect. The songs of an American music icon deserve to be heard; then you can move on to the originals.