Mud Morganfield,
Son of the Seventh Son
(Severn, 2012)

Born in 1954, Larry "Mud" Morganfield is the second son of the late McKinley Morganfield -- much better known as Muddy Waters -- to follow in his father's footsteps. The other, younger son is Big Bill Morganfield, progeny of a different mother. Mud sounds more like Muddy than Big Bill does, but both traffic in urban Chicago blues with a downhome accent. Son of the Seventh Son is Mud's first release, and it's definitely an auspicious debut.

From a lifetime's experience of it, he is immersed in his father's musical approach. He's accompanied by a crackerjack Chicago band well schooled in it, too. The sound picks up on the hard rockin' style Muddy had developed by the mid-1950s, marking his full transformation from electrified country bluesman to big-city reinterpreter of a strain of Mississippi folk music. Unlike contemporaries such as B.B. King and T Bone Walker, Muddy's art always carried hints of its rural roots; Muddy just made that music harder and more rhythmic. The result is justly celebrated as some of the most powerful music ever produced in America.

Mud carries forward this tradition with confidence and swagger. Some may complain, I suppose, that he sounds too much like his father. That should not be an issue; the man's manifest talent renders the point moot. His vocals are solid, his songwriting (seven of the disc's dozen cuts) is strong, and the band soars by staying close to the ground. Producer Bob Corritore, who also plays harmonica, keeps things tight and gritty.

Muddy's "You Can't Lose What You Ain't Never Had" receives a soulful workout. Some of Mud's own songs take their inspiration, thematic more than musical, from ones associated with his dad, for example the title song (the original written by Willie Dixon) and "Catfishing," which calls up the ghost of "Catfish Blues," among the very earliest of Delta blues. Muddy recorded a variant as "Rolling Stone," unknowingly supplying a name to a rock band, a Bob Dylan song, and a pop-music magazine to come.

"Blues in My Shoes," which closes the disc, is Mud's effort to establish his street cred as a tough West Side kid. Perhaps it's a preemptive strike against anyone who would insist he has no right to sing his father's blues. He makes his case, and so does everything else in this very satisfying album.

music review by
Jerome Clark

28 April 2012

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