Day 299: Muddy Waters – Hard Again

24 Dec

Deep Down In Florida

I don’t want to touch that album title.  Hopefully, it’s referring to the hard times that Muddy Waters frequently discusses on this record.  Even if it is, there’s probably a second meaning to it too.  That’s really clever.  Muddy Waters is the stuff of legend, so he can get away with terrible album titles.  Anyway, the title isn’t really what matters—it’s the music that counts.  And Muddy Waters really has some great music.

Hearing a real blues album is usually a strange experience for me.  So much of my favorite music borrows heavily and unashamedly from the genre, that I think I’ve kind of forgotten that this stuff came first. Who knows what Jack White, for example, would be doing if it weren’t for Muddy Waters. Every aspect of this music sounds familiar, from the tinny guitars, to the downtrodden and direct lyrics.

Listening to an album like this really reminds me just how good blues is as genre, which is pretty easy to forget in this era of disposable electronic music.  Sure, some of the guitar sections may be reused, and the lyrical structure/delivery don’t vary all that dramatically, but that’s all excusable because this music has such a cool sound.

Then again, I’m not sure that I could point out a bad blues record if I heard one—they do all kind of sound the same to me.  It took years upon years of close listening before I was able to become the indie rock expert that I am today.  I just don’t have that same skill when it comes to the blues.

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7 Responses to “Day 299: Muddy Waters – Hard Again”

  1. Dave Chops December 26, 2011 at 7:16 am #

    Mr. Ear, I am no blues maven but I do like the genre and probably have a few albums on you in this genre. As a Chicagoan, if you like this stuff, it would be a shame for you not to take advantage of the blues music going on in your ‘hood while some of the really good blues players are still around (though every year there seems to be fewer of them). You are onto something when you say that you might hear the difference between this bank and other blues bands if you heard more blues records. This band is pretty ferocious. A few of the players are still out there doing shows- though not Muddy, of course.

    As for the title, yes, the facile explanation was probably what Mr. Waters had in mind. However, I can’t resist putting this album into a little context: it came out in 1977. Blues that did not involve the most pretentious sort of “Clapton is God” soloing had mostly disappeared from the public conscience. Muddy came back with this tough, stripped down sound at the same time that punk was getting people to listen to simpler, louder stuff and the Stones had just come out with a pretty mediocre live album (“Love You Live”) that nonetheless featured a bunch of this sort of blues and was recorded at a small club. Plus, I think that Muddy’s performance in The Last Waltz that came out the next year also encouraged a lot of people to check him out and open themselves to traditional electric blues.

    In 1978 and 1979, George Thorogood and the Destroyers sold lots of albums, Alligator Records, Rounder Records and Tomato Records were coming into their own, putting out some good stuff and blues clubs were drawing new fans.

    Son House is Jack Black’s go-to blues artist but I think that Muddy’s late-70s comeback had a lot to do with keeping blues alive for long enough for Mr. Black and the Black Keys to have the chance to appreciate them.

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