Howlin' Wolf

The Real Folk Blues

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In the mid-'60s, Chess Records released a great series of compilations of '40s and '50s singles by some of its best blues artists, all of them called The Real Folk Blues. The Howlin' Wolf entry is possibly the best of the batch, and one of the best introductions to this mercurial electric bluesman. Opening with the savage "Killing Floor," the album doesn't let up in intensity, and it happily focuses on Wolf's less-anthologized sides, which gives the album a freshness a lot of blues compilations lack. From the sly "Built for Comfort" and "Three Hundred Pounds of Fun" to the apocalyptic "Natchez Burning," every track is pure Chicago blues at its finest. The album's only flaws are its skimpy 32-minute running length and the inexplicable omission of perhaps Wolf's greatest single, the amazing "How Many More Years."

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