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Author: Subject: Blues 101 (Muddy, Howlin Wolf, etc.) & Gov't Mule - where to start??

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  posted on 12/30/2016 at 12:40 PM
I’ve been listening to the blues-rock masters like Cream/D&D/Clapton, Page, Beck, ABB, SRV, Hendrix, etc. for decades. And through their music I have gotten a lot of second hand exposure to many of the songs that are considered blues standards and many of the great artists who were pioneers in the genre. But for whatever reason, I’ve just recently become interested in going directly to the source and listening to the music that inspired these blues-rockers. However, it’s a little overwhelming to even know where to start. For those of you who have taken a similar journey, what albums/artists are a good place to start for an introduction to the blues? I don’t want to invest a lot of money in a huge collection until I taste some of it to see how I like it. Are there any good compilations that would serve as a “one-stop shop” overview and introduction to artists like Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson, Elmore James, etc.?

I read an article where Warren Haynes recommended this album:
https://www.amazon.com/Chess-Box-CD-Set/dp/B000002P8I

And as for Muddy…I’ve read several recommendations for this one (and I realize it is a more “contemporary“ version of Muddy) :
https://www.amazon.com/Hard-Again-Muddy-Waters/dp/B00023GGGW

And as a follow up question…what is the best/first album I should get as an intro to the Gov’t Mule catalog?

Thank you!

[Edited on 12/30/2016 by Redfish7]

 
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  posted on 12/30/2016 at 12:49 PM
I'll let others tackle the intro to the blues questions.

Strictly my opinion but my all time favorite Gov't Mule release is Dose.

 

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  posted on 12/30/2016 at 01:36 PM
Best music question I have ever seen here. Unfortunately it is too big of a question, and there really is no place to start. There is no point where the blues actually started. It is more of a process.

You just have to jump in the hole and keep digging. Same thing happened to me and before I knew it I surfaced in the Sahara listening to Ali Farka Toure.

A fantastic resource (and free!) is the public library, blues CDs, I just went in and scooped up all the old records I could, from Robert Johnson to Rev Gary Davis ad infinitum . . . well, don't bother with the rip cord you are in permanent freefall now. Good luck, enjoy!

 

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  posted on 12/30/2016 at 01:37 PM
Albert King

 

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  posted on 12/30/2016 at 01:49 PM
I don't think you can really go wrong with most blues compilations, there are a lot of moderately budgeted collections out there (and library is a great suggestion if you have a decent one nearby). As long as they have Muddy, Howlin' Wolf, etc, you're going to get a good introduction. From there, go with what you like and get compilations of each artists' best stuff. A lot of these guys released singles in the 50s, so albums aren't really as much of a thing until you get to the late-1960s when guys like Johnny Winter were producing them (such as that Muddy Hard Again album you linked to).

If you really want to jump in, look up the Best of Chess Records ( https://www.amazon.com/Chess-Pieces-Very-Best-Records/dp/B000A3OWTW. That's the label out of Chicago that featured most of the blues headliners. I believe they have different sized compilations depending on your interest. It will open a whole Pandora's Box, just follow what you like, what jumps out at you.

Most people looking to discover new music for themselves did the same thing: you dig "Done Somebody Wrong"? Look up Elmore James. Odds are, you'll love the rest of his music. Dig Hourglass' BB King Medley? Pick up BB King Live at the Regal. I'm still doing that, it never ends. If you like Warren Haynes, odds are you'll love Howlin' Wolf.

Also an idea, look up a Muddy Waters Pandora Radio station for free - it will play related artists and songs, might be a nice primer before you buy.

https://www.pandora.com/muddy-waters

[Edited on 12/30/2016 by porkchopbob]

 

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  posted on 12/30/2016 at 03:56 PM
Agree w Gov't Mule - Dose.

As to the blues stuff - the Chess Box set you referenced is a great starting point to sample most all of the 50's/60's Blues Masters.

I love Muddy's Hard Again - one of the very first blues cd's that got me hooked on the genre. The other "contemporary" recording the got me back back in the late 80's/early 90's was Albert Collins/Johnny Copeland/Robert Cray - Showdown!

I tend to think of some of the classic recordings as a good starting point -

Jr Wells w Buddy Guy - Hoodoo Man Blues is often named as the "first" true blues LP.
Albert King - Born Under a Bad Sign; I'll Play the Blues for You; Live Wire/Blues Power
Freddie King is sorta hard to pick a single definitive recording. I've always liked his 70's work - Burglar, for example.
And again, to echo the above, BB King Live at the Regal.
Perhaps my personal two favorites - Buddy Guy - A Man & the Blues and Stone Crazy. Hard to believe it's the same guy playing on those two recordings.

Or even further back - Son House - Father of the Delta Blues.

Have fun exploring.

 

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  posted on 12/30/2016 at 04:53 PM
Actually, "Blue and Lonesome", the Stones new album would be a good starting point.

 

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  posted on 12/30/2016 at 05:12 PM
Unless, of course, the original poster is looking for an:

quote:
introduction to artists like Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson, Elmore James, etc.?


[Edited on 12/30/2016 by Redfish7]

 

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  posted on 12/30/2016 at 05:43 PM
You can start with the American Folk Blues DVD's Volumes 1-4. I could describe them, but just enjoy the foundation for all we cherish. The English Invasion was just a give back for what was given to them from the (Blues) Founding Fathers during them early tours. From The Animals to Zeppelin it's all there. The Who's My Generation format may have been borrowed by Willie Dixon's I'm Nervous. Watch Otis Rush lay it out for What Jimmy Page stayed true to (He plays lefty with a righty guitar with bass strings on bottom, Cool stuff, There's a few others like Doyle Bramhall II), but that's off topic.

Sonny Boy to Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. The Wolf and other early greats, Albert and Freddie may have broken after these were happening, but a vast majority of the greats. Gorgeous documented pieces of history. I own them hard copy, but here's a couple of them that popped up in entirety on a web search.

https://video.search.yahoo.com/search/video;_ylt=AwrBT9rd22ZYZXwAUhdXNyoA;_ ylu=X3oDMTEyNm5xcjJ1BGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDQjMyNDZfMQRzZWMDc2M-?p=Amer ican+Folk+Blues+Dvd+Volume+1-4&fr=ymyy-t-999#id=&vid=&action=cl ose

 

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  posted on 12/30/2016 at 10:53 PM
I did the same thing when I was younger. I would listen to a Led Zeppelin song and then look and see oh Willie Dixon wrote that!

I can't remember where I started, but I do know I bought some CDs that I don't listen to very often these days. But I do have some CDs I listen to quite a bit from the blues legends.

Albert King is perhaps my favorite. My personal favorite is I'll Play the Blues for You. It was released in 1972, so not a "roots" album of his, but the one I play the most often. Love Albert!

I also bought some of the early Muddy Waters releases, but the one I play now most often is Live. This was released in the late 70s I think. It's got Johnny Winter, Steady Rollin Bob Margolin, Pinetop Perkins and James Cotton on it. I like it! Again, not a "roots" release.

Another classic blues musician I really like is Freddie King! Someone mentioned Burglar and I like that one too. My favorite is Getting Ready, a 1971 release on Leon Russell's Shelter label.

For Howling Wolf I have some CDs but haven't played any in a long time. I might rather recommend The Secret History of Rock & Roll DVD - a Howling Wolf documentary, very good I think.

So I wanted to contribute to the thread even though I am not pointing you towards definitive 1950s or 1960s releases by the classic artists. Somebody mentioned Son House. Check him out, that is pretty vintage and I think you can hear how his sound has made it's way into later blues/rock musicians.

I bought a John Lee Hooker CD a long long time ago that I still rely on to this day. It is 'best of 1965-74' but ofcourse he goes much earlier than that.

One other blues-rock masters that I didn't see you list but I'm sure you are familiar with is the early Fleetwood Mac. They do some great blues in the original Peter Green lineup. If by some chance you are not very up on the early Mac the Complete Blue Horizon box set was like one of the greatest things I ever bought!

 

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  posted on 12/31/2016 at 10:18 AM
I always like to introduce people to blues through Taj Mahal's first album. It's accessible, fun, funky and still real blues.

Maybe my favorite blues album ever.

Freddie King is probably the other I'd start with.

Neither is old traditional blues like Howlin' Wolf. More towards blues-rock. But still . . .

 

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  posted on 12/31/2016 at 01:07 PM
I would bet most of us found blues through the ABB...When I bought LAFE i went down to local record store and just bought an album from each artist that was listed as the song writer. That day I came home with Elmore James "Street Talkin"...T Bone Walker and Blind Willie McTell....

From there it was a nonstop train to search out as much blues as i could and go back as far as i could.

Like all good stories the place to start is the beginning and that would be Charlie Patton from there spans all the other acoustic blues player until the late 40's when the migration to Chicago and the introduction of the electric guitar....

There are also a lot of stylistic differences based on region especially during the early days.

Enjoy your journey



[Edited on 12/31/2016 by goldtop]

 

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  posted on 1/1/2017 at 07:56 AM
As a transplanted Chicagoan, I consider myself very fortunate to be able to see and meet many blues greats.

I was able to see so many. I have met Honeyboy Edwards, Pinetop Perkins, Lonnie Brooks, Big Daddy Kinzie, Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, Koko Taylor among others.

But to the initial question, there is a great boxed set from Chess Blues. This covers many genres:

https://www.amazon.com/Chess-Blues-Various-Artists/dp/B000002OBW

If you like to read get Buddy Guy's autobiography. He does a great historical job of his early influences.

 

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  posted on 1/1/2017 at 09:09 AM
http://speaktheblues.blogspot.com/2012/08/introduction-to-blues-top-10-albu ms.html
 

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  posted on 1/1/2017 at 10:22 AM
Alligator Records has some good stuff

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alligator_Records

http://www.alligator.com/

 

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  posted on 1/2/2017 at 12:54 PM
Thank you all for the great album/artist suggestions! And thank you porkchopbob for the Pandora tip. It's been years since I have used Pandora, so that was a great reminder. I now have Pandora stations for Muddy Waters, Earl Hooker, Sonny Boy Williamson II and Tampa Red. I have also been listening to a ton of music on youtube, and samples on iTunes. So I'm starting to get a feel for what I like, but it's also become very clear that the well is much deeper than I ever knew...more like an ocean than a well.

But I'm also realizing that in most cases, I actually prefer the "white boy" blues players and their interpretations of the blues. For example, I still prefer Duane's Stormy Monday on AFE to the original. I prefer Statesboro Blues on AFE to either Taj Mahal's or Blind Willie McTell's versions...prefer Duane's take on Done Somebody Wrong over Elmore's, and SRV's The Sky is Crying over Elmore's.

So I guess I'm somewhat surprised...I had just always assumed that I was missing something by not exploring the roots of blues music...that maybe there was something out there that was even better than the ABB. But so far I haven't found that to be true. I know this is probably considered blasphemy to some of the blues purists/traditionalists, but to each his own. Maybe it's just because stuff like the ABB and Clapton are more familiar to me, and maybe my opinion will change over time...we'll see.

I still plan on taking the journey to explore the roots of blues rock...and will definitely add some albums/compilations to my music collection...so keep the recommendations coming. And I definitely tend to lean toward having a soft spot for slide guitar (Muddy, Elmore)...so any suggestions on great slide players/songs/albums by guys other than Duane/Derek/Warren, Muddy, and Elmore would be welcomed!

And I know it's not exactly going back to the roots (like Muddy or Robert Johnson)...but what's a good Johnny Winter album to start out with?...I've read some recommendations for Second Winter? Is that the best one?

Thank you!

[Edited on 1/2/2017 by Redfish7]

[Edited on 1/2/2017 by Redfish7]

 

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  posted on 1/2/2017 at 01:33 PM
quote:
But I'm also realizing that in most cases, I actually prefer the "white boy" blues players and their interpretations of the blues. For example, I still prefer Duane's Stormy Monday on AFE to the original. I prefer Statesboro Blues on AFE to either Taj Mahal's or Blind Willie McTell's versions...prefer Duane's take on Done Somebody Wrong over Elmore's, and SRV's The Sky is Crying over Elmore's.



It's not surprising at all, Muddy and Howlin' Wolf were building on what Son House and Blind Willie had done before them, just as Clapton and the Allmans built on what Muddy and Wolf did (it's ok to like Cali- or Tex-Mex more than regular Mexican food). I think if you are digging what the Allmans and Clapton have done more than Elmore or Sonny Boy, you should definitely look into Albert King and Freddie King - they were going in the same direction as well, really making the blues swing. Albert King recorded a lot in Memphis with Booker T & MGs in the 1960s and later with the Bar-Kays - some really soulful, funky stuff. Someone mentioned Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac, which I will echo (as something I only just got around to exploring). Their "Need Your Love So Bad" blows the Allmans' Enlightened Rogues' version out of the water: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VWJCeokQIkg

As far as slide guitarists, you might want to look into Johnny Winter. He was playing some dirty slide guitar while producing Muddy Waters albums.

 

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  posted on 1/2/2017 at 01:57 PM

As far as slide guitarists, you might want to look into Johnny Winter. He was playing some dirty slide guitar while producing Muddy Waters albums.


I actually went back and edited my post to ask about Johnny Winters...(I must have been editing it at the same time that you were writing your post - great minds think alike?)...

What's a good Johnny Winter album to start out with?...I've read some recommendations for Second Winter? Is that the best one?

 

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  posted on 1/2/2017 at 02:47 PM
quote:
But I'm also realizing that in most cases, I actually prefer the "white boy" blues players and their interpretations of the blues. For example, I still prefer Duane's Stormy Monday on AFE to the original. I prefer Statesboro Blues on AFE to either Taj Mahal's or Blind Willie McTell's versions...prefer Duane's take on Done Somebody Wrong over Elmore's, and SRV's The Sky is Crying over Elmore's.

While blues was a major influence on the electric "white boy" players it was only part of their musical palate so inevitably things were going to move in other directions. Probably the most important element was the development of the gun-slinger lead guitarist using a basically a rock 'n roll framework. These guys might be listening to and admiring gut-bucket stylings but it was gonna rock too. Cream's "Crossroads" can barely be considered a blues. The ABB stayed slightly closer but a lot of that had to do with Gregg's vocals (talk about gut-bucket).

Another part of the experienced difference is the authentic soulfulness of the older blues tradition. Muddy and others really lived this stuff. Their playing is all about finding an outlet for a life filled with pain and heartache. Listening is tied up with some pretty deep emotions but the blues musical style is so basic. The white boys weren't coming from that tradition in their own lives. Instead they were rock 'n roll and for almost all people on this site that is our musical roots and what we most enjoy and are comfortable with. The original blues can seem primitive and coarse compared to that.

That all said, listen to BB King's "Live at the Regal". What a beautiful guitar tone while staying within the blues genre. The Hour Glass's BB King medley was born here (and so was a good part of the future Allman Brothers Band sound).


 

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  posted on 1/2/2017 at 03:07 PM
quote:
quote:
But I'm also realizing that in most cases, I actually prefer the "white boy" blues players and their interpretations of the blues. For example, I still prefer Duane's Stormy Monday on AFE to the original. I prefer Statesboro Blues on AFE to either Taj Mahal's or Blind Willie McTell's versions...prefer Duane's take on Done Somebody Wrong over Elmore's, and SRV's The Sky is Crying over Elmore's.

While blues was a major influence on the electric "white boy" players it was only part of their musical palate so inevitably things were going to move in other directions. Probably the most important element was the development of the gun-slinger lead guitarist using a basically a rock 'n roll framework. These guys might be listening to and admiring gut-bucket stylings but it was gonna rock too. Cream's "Crossroads" can barely be considered a blues. The ABB stayed slightly closer but a lot of that had to do with Gregg's vocals (talk about gut-bucket).

Another part of the experienced difference is the authentic soulfulness of the older blues tradition. Muddy and others really lived this stuff. Their playing is all about finding an outlet for a life filled with pain and heartache. Listening is tied up with some pretty deep emotions but the blues musical style is so basic. The white boys weren't coming from that tradition in their own lives. Instead they were rock 'n roll and for almost all people on this site that is our musical roots and what we most enjoy and are comfortable with. The original blues can seem primitive and coarse compared to that.

That all said, listen to BB King's "Live at the Regal". What a beautiful guitar tone while staying within the blues genre. The Hour Glass's BB King medley was born here (and so was a good part of the future Allman Brothers Band sound).





Thanks for this great insight, dzobo. I think you nailed it. This explains why some of us still prefer the "white boy's" interpretations of the blues (and what is really "blues-based rock" rather than pure/traditional blues), and yet at the same time we have an appreciation of (or curiosity about) the roots of it all and we somehow long to taste that genuine experience of the "real thing". Makes a lot of sense.

 

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  posted on 1/2/2017 at 06:00 PM
redfish, I imagine most everyone on this here message board feels the same way - in general about the ABB and in particular about specific versions of certain songs.

So I'd respectfully suggest taking a slightly different approach - don't focus on the songs you know that the ABB & Clapton and all the other "white boy" blues players have covered, but focus on the other 97% of the stuff that wasn't covered. The Chess box set is great, but dang near every song is much more well known by the rocker's cover versions.

And you can still stick with some of the more (relatively) contemporary stuff instead of the pre-war/50s/early 60s stuff. As several have posted - Albert/BB/Freddie King, Buddy Guy and Albert Collins will almost all sound much more familiar to you than some older blues music.

As for other slide players - Roy Rogers is a contemporary monster player. Chops Not Chaps or Blues on the Range would be my recommendation. Another modern guy is Sonny Landreth - very unique player who for some reason doesn't quite do it for me.




quote:
Thank you all for the great album/artist suggestions! And thank you porkchopbob for the Pandora tip. It's been years since I have used Pandora, so that was a great reminder. I now have Pandora stations for Muddy Waters, Earl Hooker, Sonny Boy Williamson II and Tampa Red. I have also been listening to a ton of music on youtube, and samples on iTunes. So I'm starting to get a feel for what I like, but it's also become very clear that the well is much deeper than I ever knew...more like an ocean than a well.

But I'm also realizing that in most cases, I actually prefer the "white boy" blues players and their interpretations of the blues. For example, I still prefer Duane's Stormy Monday on AFE to the original. I prefer Statesboro Blues on AFE to either Taj Mahal's or Blind Willie McTell's versions...prefer Duane's take on Done Somebody Wrong over Elmore's, and SRV's The Sky is Crying over Elmore's.

So I guess I'm somewhat surprised...I had just always assumed that I was missing something by not exploring the roots of blues music...that maybe there was something out there that was even better than the ABB. But so far I haven't found that to be true. I know this is probably considered blasphemy to some of the blues purists/traditionalists, but to each his own. Maybe it's just because stuff like the ABB and Clapton are more familiar to me, and maybe my opinion will change over time...we'll see.

I still plan on taking the journey to explore the roots of blues rock...and will definitely add some albums/compilations to my music collection...so keep the recommendations coming. And I definitely tend to lean toward having a soft spot for slide guitar (Muddy, Elmore)...so any suggestions on great slide players/songs/albums by guys other than Duane/Derek/Warren, Muddy, and Elmore would be welcomed!

And I know it's not exactly going back to the roots (like Muddy or Robert Johnson)...but what's a good Johnny Winter album to start out with?...I've read some recommendations for Second Winter? Is that the best one?

Thank you!

[Edited on 1/2/2017 by Redfish7]

[Edited on 1/2/2017 by Redfish7]

 

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  posted on 1/2/2017 at 07:08 PM
quote:
redfish, I imagine most everyone on this here message board feels the same way - in general about the ABB and in particular about specific versions of certain songs.

So I'd respectfully suggest taking a slightly different approach - don't focus on the songs you know that the ABB & Clapton and all the other "white boy" blues players have covered, but focus on the other 97% of the stuff that wasn't covered. The Chess box set is great, but dang near every song is much more well known by the rocker's cover versions.

And you can still stick with some of the more (relatively) contemporary stuff instead of the pre-war/50s/early 60s stuff. As several have posted - Albert/BB/Freddie King, Buddy Guy and Albert Collins will almost all sound much more familiar to you than some older blues music.

As for other slide players - Roy Rogers is a contemporary monster player. Chops Not Chaps or Blues on the Range would be my recommendation. Another modern guy is Sonny Landreth - very unique player who for some reason doesn't quite do it for me.


Thanks, berkhath...sounds like good advice...I'm definitely going to keep digging/exploring. As for Sonny Landreth, I feel the same as you...I've heard a few of his songs and have seen him on the EC Crossroads show (with Derek)...but I just don't care for him either. I'm not familiar with Roy, but will check him out.

 

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  posted on 1/2/2017 at 09:45 PM
quote:
Someone mentioned Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac, which I will echo (as something I only just got around to exploring). Their "Need Your Love So Bad" blows the Allmans' Enlightened Rogues' version out of the water: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VWJCeokQIkg


Plus Jeremy Spencer just loved Elmore James, so you get alot of that sound in their music too. There isn't much better than 1967-71 Fleetwood Mac!

 

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  posted on 1/2/2017 at 09:46 PM
I should add, for some great rocking blues....how about Luther Allison! His Live in Chicago CD is pretty much essential stuff for me!
 

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  posted on 1/2/2017 at 10:26 PM
you have to understand there as many categories of blues as there are rock or jazz. folk blues, delta blues, chicago blues, texas blues, california blues, jump blues and on and on and on. my advice would be to find something that catches your ear and investigate the artist and see who's influenced them, who's played with them and who they've played with. muddy led me to little walter, junior wells (who led me to buddy guy), otis spann and many more. bb led me to bobby bland. sonny boy II led me to robert lockwood and sonny boy I. half of the enjoyment is the discovery of someone you've never heard that just blows you away. happy hunting!

 

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