Muddy Waters

The Blues: Rolling Stone: 1941-1950

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There are countless Muddy Waters compilations on the market, but what makes this two-disc package so interesting is that it traces the transformation of Waters from a tractor operator on Stovall's Plantation in Mississippi to his incarnation as the king of Chicago blues. Opening with a pair of acoustic field recordings, "Country Blues" and the poignant "I Be's Troubled," that Waters recorded under his real name of McKinley Morganfield for Alan Lomax in 1941, this valuable set then moves on to include his fiery early Chicago recordings for the Chess imprint Aristocrat, sides that came a scant six years after the Lomax sessions and show both the similarities and differences between the old and new approaches to the blues that Waters came to symbolize. No song better illustrates all of this than 1948's "I Can't Be Satisfied," a ragged, kinetic blast of electric blues that is none other than "I Be's Troubled" with a fresh coat of modernist paint. It rocks and roars as hard as anything Waters ever cut, but still retains the strutting poignancy of the original acoustic version from 1941. With other key early Chicago tracks like "Rollin' and Tumblin'" on board, this collection captures Waters in his most innovative and exciting phase.

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