Folk Singer

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For the person who sings the genre, see Folk music.
Folk Singer
Studio album by Muddy Waters
Released January 1964
Recorded September 1963
Tel Mar Recording Studios, Chicago, Illinois
Genre Blues
Length 40:05
Label Chess LPS-1483
Producer Muddy Waters, Ralph Bass, Willie Dixon
Muddy Waters chronology
At Newport 1960
(1960)
Folk Singer (1964) Super Blues (1967)

Folk Singer is the fourth studio album by Muddy Waters, released April 1964 on Chess Records. The album features Waters on acoustic guitar, backed by Willie Dixon on string bass, Clifton James on drums, and Buddy Guy on acoustic guitar. The record is Waters' only all-acoustic album. Numerous reissues of Folk Singer include bonus tracks from two subsequent sessions in April 1964 and October 1964.

Despite not charting in any country, Folk Singer received critical acclaim; most reviewers praised its high-quality sound, especially on remastered versions, as well as the instrumentation. In 2003, the album was ranked number 280 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

Background[edit]

After his successful performance at Newport Jazz Festival and tours through America, Chess Records encouraged Waters to record songs for a new studio album. Before the recording, many musicians left and joined Waters' band. Andrew Stephens, who played during Newport, was replaced in the following years with numerous bassists. Waters' "Junior" band included drummer Willie "Big Eyes" Smith, who later replaced Francis Clay. Pat Hare was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of his wife Mrs. Winje. While in jail, he formed the band Sounds Incarcerated.[1]

Hare was replaced with numerous guitarists, including James "Pee Wee" Madison, who unlike Hare, played a right-handed guitar left handed. Madison played guitar on some of the reissue bonus tracks, as did Sammy Lawhorn. Lawhorn allegedly suffered from narcolepsy, however, Elvin Bishop denied this and believed he was just an alcoholic.[2] Electric guitarist Buddy Guy, who recorded with Waters for 1963's Blues from Big Bill's Copacabana on Chess, was hired. Guy was previously discovered by Waters shortly after Guy's arrival from Louisiana.[3]

Recording[edit]

Folk Singer is what is called an "unplugged" recording and differs from his earlier albums, which featured an electric blues sound. The album was given its name Folk Singer by Chess Records because it was recorded during the time when folk was very popular. In order to appeal to fans of folk music, Chess thus decided to record a more acoustic album with two acoustic guitarists. Buddy Guy was hired as the second guitarist, other guitarists played on bonus tracks.[4] Guy played on all original songs, except the last song "Feel Like Going Home", together with Waters.[5]

The recording took place at the Tel Mar Recording Studios in Chicago, Illinois on September 1963, and was produced by Willie Dixon.[6] The original vinyl release includes nine songs, most of which are performed at a slower tempo, with the exception of the uptempo "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl". During recording, Waters emphasized his singing with hums and sighs.[7]

Releases and tour[edit]

The original LP was released in April 1964 by Chess Records.[5] Since then, numerous recording labels have released different versions on CD with different bonus tracks from Waters' 1964 sessions. One of the first CD versions was released in 1993 by Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab, containing two bonus tracks, "You Can't Lose What You Ain't New Had" and "The Same Thing."[8] The 1999 remastered version contains five bonus tracks, "The Same Thing", "You Can't Lose What You Ain't Never Had", "My John The Conqueror Root", "Short Dress Woman" and "Put Me In Your Lay Away".[9]

The supporting tour through Europe, the second American Folk Blues Festival, began one month after the recording of Folk Singer. The first gig out of seventeen took place in London; other performances were in countries like Belgium, Germany, France and Denmark. In London, Waters began with the unreleased "My Captain", followed by "Rollin' Stone". In keeping with the folk theme, quiet versions of "Five Long Years", "Blow Wind Blow", "Trouble No More", "My Home Is In The Delta" and "Got My Mojo Working" were performed.[10]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars[5]
Rolling Stone (favourable)[11]
Musicangle (favourable)[12]
The Audio Beat 4.5/5 stars[13]

Folk Singer received positive critical reception. It was generally lauded for its high-quality sound and the instrumental performances by Waters, Guy and band. Cub Koda from Allmusic gave the album 4.5 out of 5 stars, praising the fresh and vital sound.[5] The album was ranked at number 280 on Rolling Stone's "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time" in 2003, stating that the "unplugged" playing was pioneering and "is beloved by blues and folk fans alike."[14] In a 1994 issue of Rolling Stone, the reviewer wrote, "...There aren't too many blues albums that qualify as audiophile recordings, but Muddy Waters Folk Singer surely does. A wonderfully intimate session, it delivers Waters' voice in all its power and subtlety, while rendering his guitar work...with such vivid realism, you would think you were sitting in the studio...."[11]

The sound of the 2011 remastered version was described in a review by Musicangle's Michael Fremer as "sweet, liquid and free of harshness and edge", and the dynamics as "mind-boggling". He suggested that "Muddy and Buddy and Willie have never sounded as natural and 'in the room' as they do [on the 2011 remastered version]".[12] Similarly, Marc Mickelson from The Audio Beat enjoyed the "direct and unfettered" playing, which emphasizes "the emotional rawness of the blues", and the "spacious and reverberant" sound, which creates "a sonic atmosphere that fits the music especially well."[13]

Track listing[edit]

Personnel[edit]

Source: Allmusic

References[edit]

  1. ^ Gordon 2003, pp. 202–203.
  2. ^ Gordon 2003, pp. 203.
  3. ^ Gordon 2003, pp. 211.
  4. ^ Matthew Rowe. "Music Review". Musictap. Retrieved January 28, 2012. 
  5. ^ a b c d Cub Koda. "Allmusic -> Folk Singer". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved January 28, 2012. 
  6. ^ Santelli 1997, p. 128.
  7. ^ Gordon 2003, pp. 212.
  8. ^ "Allmusic -> Folk Singer [Mobile Fidelity]". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved January 28, 2012. 
  9. ^ "Folk Singer [Extra tracks, Original recording remastered]". Amazon. Retrieved January 28, 2012. 
  10. ^ Gordon 2003, pp. 212–213.
  11. ^ a b Rolling Stone, 3/10/94, p.67
  12. ^ a b Michael Fremer. "Folksinger Yet Again?". MusicAngle.com & Michael Fremer. Retrieved January 31, 2012. 
  13. ^ a b Marc Mickelson. "Muddy Waters • Folk Singer". The Audio Beat. Retrieved January 31, 2012. 
  14. ^ "500 Greatest Albums of All Time: 280 Folk Singer – Muddy Waters". Rolling Stone. Wenner Media. 2003. Retrieved January 28, 2012. 
Bibliography
  • Gordon, Robert (June 1, 2003). Can't Be Satisfied – The Life and Times of Muddy Waters. Keith Richards (foreword). Back Bay Books. ISBN 978-0-316-16494-8. 
  • Santelli, Robert (December 12, 1997). The best of the blues:the 101 essential albums. Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-14-023755-9.