In 1963, Chess Records asked Muddy Waters to produce an album targeted at the folk revival scene. Water’s brought along new talent – Buddy Guy – for these “unplugged” sessions that were to become Folk Singer. The album represents an anomaly in Muddy Waters’ discography as Waters had begun electrifying his sound, but since the market for blues diminished significantly in the early 1960s, an acoustic folk approach seemed to make financial sense. The album never transformed Waters into a folk revival hit as it did for Son House, Lightin’ Hopkins and others, but it nevertheless contains some of Waters’ most intimate music.
The tracks on Folk Singer can be roughly split up into three groups : this first features Muddy and a band consisting of Buddy Guy, Willie Dixon and Clifton James; the second group of songs see Waters accompanied solely by Guy; and finally, there is one song where Muddy is totally on his own. The tracks where Muddy is backed by a band generally have more swing to them. The songs with Muddy and Buddy, I feel, are the most exceptional tracks in the collection as it contrasts Buddy more fluid style with Muddy’s muscular riffs. I was less impressed with Muddy’s solo cut. Throughout the album, Muddy plays a mean slide guitar; unlike his late albums where he generally played the same riffs over and over again, his guitar work on Folk Singer remains fresh and creative.
Curiously, Folk Singer is marketed currently as an “audiophile” disc (and in a comic twist, Muddy is translated into 水泥佬 in Chinese) . Apparently, the sessions were given serious remastering by some German technicians back in 1994. As a result, the sound quality is very good and it retains the echoey flavour common in classic Chess recordings of that era. The music on Folk Singer sounds very crisp and engaging.
Highly recommended. Stand out tracks : #1 My Home Is In The Delta, #4 Good Morning School Girl, #6 Cold Weather Blues, #7 Big Leg Woman.