on July 7, 2000
I picked up this CD after hearing two of its tracks on Muddy Waters' Best 1956 - 1964. It's a wonderful acoustic blues album. You've got the king of the electric blues, his wonderful voice and slide guitar, you've got legendary songwriter/bassist Willie Dixon, AND, as if that weren't enough, a very young Buddy Guy on lead guitar (who I believe to be the best guitarist in the world). All these ingredients make for one great album. Plus there are bonus tracks to fill out the CD (missing Buddy Guy unfortunately), terrific liner notes and photos, and digital remastering. This CD really, really sounds great. I was blown away by the audio quality. It sounds as if the album were recorded last year. If you like Muddy Waters, acoustic blues, or just great music, check out Folk Singer immediately.
on April 30, 2000
Nothing is quite so productive of irony as the collision of art and commerce, and this sterling CD is a perfect example. The year is 1964, and the (white) owners of Chess Records are concerned that Chicago-style electrified blues is being usurped in the marketplace by "folk music"--everything, that is, from the Weavers to the rediscovered Mississippi John Hurt. So they importune the great Muddy Waters to trim his sails to the commerical breeze and cut a "folk" session with an acoustic guitar. Sell out? Nothing of the kind. Muddy, needless to say, came up via the Delta string-band tradition to start with, so unplugging was hardly a stretch for him. And the result was, and is, a stripped-down wonder, with the singer's bottomless, resonant baritone front and center, supported by his own expert fingerpicking, Willie Dixon's upright bass, and an extremely youthful Buddy Guy supplying electric fills. Fantastic, just fantastic, with one of Muddy's all-time greatest performances, "You Can't Lose What You Never Had."
on February 12, 2007
What a great blues album! I just received it in the mail, and this is one of those CD's that exceeds all expectations. First, I was floored by the sound quality - hi-res with beaucoups of air and a realistic soundstage. As I continued through the disc, it became obvious that this CD belongs on a short list of the best blues albums ever made because the performances were incredible! No folk songs here - it's all acoustic blues with Willie Dixon on bass and Buddy Guy on guitar accompanying Muddy. The bonus tracks are all keepers too. This is absolutely essential blues, and music for the ages.
on August 20, 2006
This is not a folk album; it's a blues album. And it's one of the best blues albums anybody ever recorded. I have a lot of Muddy Waters' CDs, and this one makes me stop and listen to how great his voice was, how well he could tell a story, how deeply he could hook you. You get that "back porch blues" feeling, like he's there with you on a hot summer night strummin' and singin' with a couple of friends he brought along.
This album is a must for any Muddy Waters--or blues--lover.
The remastered recording is quite clear and fresh, a great sounding album
on March 12, 2000
"~Folk Singer is a stunning return to acoustic folk blues for Muddy Waters. The remastering is superb and the picking and rhythmic patterns of a young Buddy Guy is mouth dropping. If you're going to get a Muddy Waters cd, don't waste your time with a greatest hits package, you can't listen to the blues like that, it's more a feeling at a certain point in time, and at the time of this recording, all the artists were on the same page. development and history of American music. This and Newport are pillars in the folk/blues movement of the late 50's and early 60's.
on July 30, 1999
If you are looking for a moment of peace amidst the hustle bustle of modern life, get this CD which features the King of the Blues going back to his roots with some gorgeous accoustic guitar work and timeless songs. Muddy's playing is sparse so that every note matters. His singing is soft and mysterious. This is American music at its best. It is also a wonderful record for guitar players who wish to practice their blues scales to pre-recorded music...
on September 10, 2001
Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. Acoustic Muddy, one step removed from the Delta and backed by outstanding musicians. Most notably Buddy Guy on acoustic guitar. Wonderful stuff. Muddy's gut-wrenching vocals run the gamut from sweet-as-honey to scorned and shaken. Make this a must for your collection -- blues or otherwise.
on January 30, 2012
I remember my dad and his brother staying up all night listening to the blues when I was a child, (and supposed to be asleep)... Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Albert Collins, Buddy Guy, and BB King, just to name a few. I was just around nine or ten and had no clue what the heck I was listening to, but I knew I liked it. It was raw, soulful, and real. Well, from then on I was hooked. My father is passed now, and this is the album I keep coming back to that reminds me of him. I may be a bit biased but I do believe this may just be the best acoustic blues album ever made. The recording quality is stellar, and Muddy is, well, flawless. I love that I can here the creeks in his wooden chair as he moves around while performing. Like I said, for my money, it just doesn't get any better than this.
on January 18, 2013
If you get the chance to listen to this cd, it will be like listening to music for the first time ever. You will wonder how you have gone so long without listening to music of this caliber. It is something you just have to experience.
on January 9, 2014
*This record is #1 in a select chronological list of 500 albums that never made the top 40 album charts (released 1964-present), yet considered among the best and/or most important albums ever released. "An Alternative Top 40" is a work in progress, to be published in 2017.
(Billboard - did not chart)
In 1964, Blues music fulfilled just about any definition of `Alternative' music. In that year, blues as a genre was so unpopular that it could possibly even classify as `Outsider' music. For example, Blues was considered to be such anathema that even identifying with the label `Blues' was considered commercial suicide. The once reliable Black audience now saw the blues as `Grampa music' while the white audience that would eventually embrace the genre had not yet coalesced. So, people like Muddy Waters, and his label, Chess Records - a label that made a living from selling blues-related music - had a problem. How do you present a blues artist to a market that is not interested in your product?
As a `solution', Chess took a crass commercial idea and ran with it. In 1963, `Folk' music was all the rage. Lots of crappy three-part harmony-singing college dudes in sweaters were selling records by the millions, while real artists like Bob Dylan and Fred Neil were legitimizing the new trend. To make Muddy Waters more saleable, they simply stopped calling him a blues singer and, through the title of this album, re-invented him as a "Folk Singer.' Problem solved!
The truth, though, is that Muddy Waters didn't change his style one bit in some crass attempt to appeal to the neo-folkies. He stayed true to himself, and what happened? The faux-folk movement faded away as listeners grew more discerning, and tried to find `real' folk music with roots. This led to an era of re-discovery and re-birth. For some, tracing the history of the blues became a full-blown passion and a lifelong obsession. This fascination would eventually lead to the rebirth of the blues as a popular music form. Much of the credit for that rebirth lies with Muddy Waters and the music on this record.
An interesting result of Waters' recording process on "Folk Singer" is how it allows us to hear blues music differently than we were used to. Until now, electric blues records were (usually accidentally) claustrophobic in their sound palette. The distorted harmonica would melt into the overdriven sound of the vocal track. A blues record was like a burning car - it wasn't made up different pieces that come together to create a whole but was instead a flaming amalgamation of sound that couldn't be broken down to constituent pieces. Much like the early acoustic 78 RPM blues records that were recorded poorly and full of surface noise, the indecipherability of the sound provided mystery. On "Folk Music", Chess Records suddenly started acting as if they were a Jazz label like Verve, providing space between the instruments, where the room is a virtual instrument. For better or worse, the blues sounded `respectable' on "Folk Singer". It is the only all-acoustic album Waters ever made.
The single most important thing to recognize while listening to "Folk Singer" is that by 1964, the entire American music industry treated Muddy Waters as a has-been while in actuality, he was pointing the way to the future. The electric blues movement, which Muddy Waters himself was largely responsible for, had changed the entire dynamic of the genre, generating sparks of interest among a younger white audience that would eventually burst into flame, particularly in England. This album is a gorgeous oddity, as it captures Waters deliberately avoiding his electric sound, playing much as he did before his Chicago relocation. A+ Tom Ryan