They Call Me Mud
It’s not fair to make such a physically imposing man walk a proverbial tightrope. Yet, that will likely always be the case with Muddy Waters’ son, Mud Morganfield. Both his large presence and vocal style inevitably recall his dad. In fact, Mark Wenner of the Nighthawks described playing and standing next to Mud, “downright scary” as Wenner recalled Mud’s striking resemblance to his dad. Fans will constantly be demanding his dad’s stuff. So, Mud looks for the best balance he can. Sometimes it works but often moving from smooth, jazzy R&B into a visceral slide guitar of his dad’s tunes is just too jolting.
Rick Kreher, producer and guitarist on much of the album describes the music on this disc as a “blues buffet,” with something for everyone. That’s because Mud was not raised in the Delta. Instead he grew up during the era of soul, Motown, and R&B. He was a bassist in bands that played much of that music, and one gets the sense this is his true comfort zone. He did write all the tunes except his dad’s two.
Aside from Muddy’s “Howling Wolf” and “Can’t Get No Grinding” as well as the B.B. King styled title track, the Chicago blues stompers “Rough Around the Edge” and “Walkin’ Cane,” the album offers mostly funk and R&B. One distinct highlight is the duet between Mud and his daughter Lashunda Williams on “Who Loves You.” Lashunda’s voice is so good, she leaves us wanting more from her. Mud plays bass on three tracks and adds horns on several tunes.
Notable blues musicians will jump at the chance to play with Mud, who is one step removed from blues royalty. As such, a dizzying cast of Chicago’s best grace the album. They include Billy Flynn on guitar, E. G. McDaniel on bass, harmonicist Studebaker John, pianist Sumito Ariyo Ariyoshi and Melvin “Pookie Stix” Williams on drums.” Harmonicist Billy Branch plays on the instrumental closer. Guitarist Mike Wheeler plays on several R&B based tunes. Anne Harris adds her fiddle to the father-daughter duet. Mud’s vocal damn close to his dad on both the two Muddy tunes and his baritone in “Oh Yeah,” it might make you do a double take.
This is Mud’s third album for Severn. Son of the Seventh Son, the first one also offered a mix but was more blues based. 2014’s For Pops, a traditional album featuring his dad’s tunes was nominated for a BMA. This one’s essentially a 50/50 split between classic blues and soul/R&B. While it’s all done well, be prepared for Mud to step away from dad’s vintage sound. Inevitably, he’ll never nor may he ever want to completely escape his dad’s shadow. In the meantime, give him his due.
- Jim Hynes
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