A big voice blessed a small room at a
Chinese restaurant in the smallest state in America on
December 8, and everyone who witnessed the musicality
received an early Christmas gift.
That’s because the voice belonged to
none other than Mud Morganfield, the eldest son of the
late Chicago blues king Muddy Waters. While many have
been singing Muddy’s songs for decades in clubs across
the country, and even around the world, no one has more
right to do it than Mud, and no one sounds more like
Muddy than Mud.
“If it was somebody else trying to do
it, it wouldn’t work,” said Jerry McManus, a lifelong
blues fanatic who made the trip from Worcester,
Massachusetts with his traveling buddy Joe Jakubiak.
“He puts on a good show. “He’s got a lot of
Returning to Chan’s Eggrolls Jazz &
Blues in Woonsocket, Rhode Island after a July
engagement, Morganfield was backed by his New England
band, which consisted of Dave Robbins (harmonica), Ricky
King Russell (guitar), Bob Worthington (bass), Kurt
Kalker (drums) and Matt McCabe (piano). The band kicked
things off with a five-minute instrumental version of
“The Hucklebuck” before Mud was welcomed to the stage by
restaurant/club owner John Chan, who it should be noted,
was inducted into the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame
earlier this year.
Touring in support of his new album
They Call Me Mud, Mud began by showing the crowd that while he is definitely his
father’s son – facial resemblance, vocal quality and a
fine-looking suit - he is also his own man. Whereas
Muddy Waters played guitar – preferring a Fender
telecaster – Mud has been playing bass, at home, for 30
years. And now he’s bringing the bass on stage, even if
just for the first couple of numbers. Mud could surely
learn to play a regular electric guitar if he so chose –
and show up on stage with a candy apple red telecaster -
but he is not trying to be a carbon copy of his pops.
As he took to center stage and
strapped on his bass guitar, he yelled out “Are you
ready for the blues?” to which the crowd, eating Chinese
food up until that point, responded with an enthusiastic
“Yeah” and some hand claps.
Mud and the band kicked things off
with two cuts from Mud’s new album, the title track
“They Call Me Mud” and “48 Days.” The first tune got the
crowd rocking and the second had a slower groove that
allowed Mud to get a little bit sexy with his voice and
show he sounds more than adequate delivering an original
composition that doesn’t seek to mimic his father’s
sound. The song has Mud pleading for a lover to come
back home if she doesn’t “want to see a grown man cry.”
After warming up the crowd with two
of his own, Mud of course had to give them some of his
father’s classic tunes. He started off with “Nineteen
Years Old.” Rocking a white suit with a black dress
shirt, accentuated by a white tie, sporting processed
hair and a mustache similar to his father, you could
have sworn everyone in the room had taken a time machine
back to a Chicago blues club in the 1950s. Only this was
a New England state in 2018. Mud transports you because
he’s that good. Echoing his father at the end of the
song, he delivered multiple drawn out “Mmms” and “Yeahs,”
much to the crowd’s delight before finishing the line
about trying to “make this young woman feel satisfied.”
The 60-something-year-old Mud told
the crowd a 19-year-old woman is too young for him
“Bout to kill me,” he said.
Mud then transitioned into his
father’s 1955 classic “I Want to be Loved.” During the
harmonica solo, he told Dave Robbins, “Take your time
son.” Enjoying it, Mud was rocking on his stool with
that impish grin his father also had. Singing with a
fervor that many in the blues community lack today, Mud
brought “I Want to be Loved” back to life. However, he
brought the last few words of the song – “I want to be
loved” – down to a whisper, a nice touch after singing
every other moment of the song with so much fire in his
Robbins would tell EarlyBlues.com
it is an absolute honor to play with Mud.
“It means more than I can ever
describe,” he said. “It’s religious for me because his
father is the ultimate blues god. It’s uncanny the way
Mud looks, sounds. He has the timbre of his father’s
voice. Everything about Mud is his father.”
Robbins admitted that sometimes the
band gets so caught up, members think they’re playing
with Muddy as opposed to Mud.
Mud is a consummate performer.
Besides the voice, there are other things that make his
show a show. There are countless facial
contortions while pouring his heart into every word,
there’s enthusiastic yet slight head shakes going on,
there are moments he slams a right fist into a left palm
for emphasis while delivering a line, as well as the
waving of a towel he often has in his left hand. At
Chan’s on Saturday night, Mud even got off his stool to
give the crowd some humorous funky dancing when the band
was really tearing it up on “Leave Me Alone” during the
second half of the show.
Mud and band did six songs before
intermission, ending with Waters’ “I Don’t Know Why.”
When they returned to the stage, they did seven tunes,
beginning with Waters’ “Young Fashioned Ways.” Mud
followed that up with one of his own, “Loco Motor,” more
of a jump blues tune, off of his 2012 album Son of
the Seventh Son.
Singer/guitarist Willie J. Laws – a
former Texas bluesman now living in Massachusetts - was
invited to play on “I Just Want to Make Love to You” and
he rattled off an assortment of hot licks knowing this
was his moment playing alongside blues royalty. Family
members and friends captured the moment with cell phone
video and photos.
Mud’s final original song of the
night was “Leave Me Alone,” featured on Son of
Seventh Son, which was Mud’s first national release.
It is clearly more steeped in the Muddy Waters style
than the three originals Mud sang earlier. Close your
eyes and you could have sworn it was a “lost” Muddy
Waters tune recently unearthed from the former Chess
Records building, which is now home to Willie Dixon’s
Blues Heaven Foundation.
After a solid version of “Trouble No
More,” a mid-1950s hit for Waters, things got
interesting as Boston-based violinist Ilana Katz Katz –a
Vizztone Label Group artist who still plays the subway –
was invited up to add her brand of blues to the mix.
Between her playing adding another layer of musicality
to the proceedings, and Mud encouraging crowd
participation on what would be an eight-minute version
of “Got My Mojo Working,” the night seemingly reached
its apex. Sherry Powers, known as Chan’s dancing
waitress, seemed to be caught under a spell.
“The music just goes right through
you,” she said.
Just when it seemed Mud, the band and
Katz Katz were finished – since Mud had said, “Ladies
and gentlemen, we gotta go” and exited stage left – they
treated the crowd to an encore.
As soon as Ricky King Russell played
the opening lick of “Mannish Boy,” one of Waters’ most
popular songs, the crowd vocally expressed its
appreciation before Mud could belt out the opening line.
For Phil Ricchiuti, of North
Providence, RI, it was a perfect ending to a perfect
“Let’s face it, a lot of the old time
Chicago guys are no longer with us, and he’s carrying on
the tradition of his father, a blues pioneer and a
legend,” he said. “He’s the real deal.”
Katz Katz would add, “I’ve had the
honor of performing with a lot of people but that was
awesome sauce. He is wonderful and kind and it was an
amazing experience. He has his own energy and his own
soulful way but he also channels his father’s energy.”
EarlyBlues.com that he is “at home” when paying
homage to his father but he is also mindful of forging
his own path. He added that the Son of the Seventh
Son and They Call Me Mud albums are to “show
the world and the critics that it is so much more to
this blues man.
KIRK LANG (on
behalf of EarlyBlues.com)