Muddy Waters remains one of the greatest of all time. But, like many of the greats; be it football, basketball, baseball or the blues, Muddy had what was undeniably a slump in his long career. His 1977 release Hard Again — released on on January 10, 1977 — was appropriately titled and marked the kind of comeback you expect from the great ones.
The slump was mostly due to Muddy’s long-time record label Chess, which at the time was beginning its fall as an active music label to what it eventually became — an awesome catalog and nothing more.
Dire times often lead to bad moves and Chess made a ton hoping to keep itself and its roster alive in its final 10 years. Muddy was no exception and albums like Electric Mud, After The Rain or The London Muddy Waters Sessions were thorns in the sides of blues lovers and Muddy fans at the time.
Any coach can tell you the best way to break out of the slump is surround yourself with good talent and get back to the fundamentals and Muddy did just that. Great musicians are all over this record: the late Pinetop Perkins, James Cotton and Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, just for starters.
Blues guitar monster Johnny Winter served as producer for this album and serves up some of his patented nasty guitar licks and some great vocals — maybe, it’s more like screeching, whooping and hell yeahs!
It’s pretty much what you would imagine it was like to have Muddy and friends come into your house, eat all your food, drink your beer then plug up and jam. You should know you are in trouble right off the bat when Muddy takes his classic hit “Mannish Boy” and turns it into something new, maybe better, but definitely mean.
Take my word for it: No matter how bad you feel, no matter if your sweetie left you for another guy, your dog takes up with your arsehole of a neighbor or your boss tells you to hit the road — put this version of “Mannish Boy” in your car and drive. Cotton does some great work on “Bus Driver” and “Little Girl.” The blues standard “I Can’t Be Satisfied” is just what it should be: a kick butt, funky blooz swing.
If you dig Muddy, make sure you get a hold of this one.
DERRICK LORD, an Alabama-based blues- and roots-music lover, was an original co-founder of the music site that grew into Something Else!, along with S. Victor Aaron and Nick DeRiso.
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