Trust the British to go and dig up as much blues roots as possible. The blues as a music form was born in the states with folks like Robert Johnson, Son House and Muddy Waters. It was a blend of art culture that trickled into American interest, but, like so many other artforms, soon faded into near obscurity. With bands like the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, Mayall's Bluesbreakers and Led Zeppelin, we can thank the Motherland for keeping the blues alive in the minds of every teenage suburbanite who's ever slung a six-string over his shoulder.
The British-run Catfish label has kept that flame burning for a while now, and the flame doesn't blaze any brighter than it does with their release of Muddy Waters' Streamlined Woman, a set of recordings originally made for Leonard Chess' Aristocrat label, shortly before it became Chess Records. This release finds the early Mud slinging and strangling his guitar for wide-ranging effect. With this steady stream of remastered reminders, it is easy to see how all those wide-eyed invaders got so excited: here was a cat who was taking the blues of Robert Johnson and cranking the volume to eleven. And Muddy was soon enough to become all the rage.
While Streamlined Woman offers us a glorious historic glimpse at a young McKinley Morganfield, the solos can border on repetitive in casual listening. But attention to the subtle differences in each song will be rewarding. Songs like "Down South Blues" and "Rollin' and Tumblin'" have the same distinctive shuffles and beats, but we are interested in the attitudes to each respective take. That attitude is called a sound, and listening to the sound of Muddy Waters is to listen to the sound of the blues.
The Catfish label has wide distribution. Streamlined Woman is available everywhere. Or you can order it directly from the label's web page.
Catfish on the web: http://www.catfishrecords.co.uk/