Mud Morganfield – Portrait | Album Review

Mud Morganfield – Portrait

Delmark Records 876

14 songs – 64 minutes

There’s no individual on the planet who can emulate the sound, look and mannerisms of Muddy Waters better than his eldest son, Mud Morganfield. But Mud’s far more than a clone of his dad despite delivering performances that – if you didn’t know any better – you’d believe his forebear is still in the room.

But Mud’s far more than that – something that’s revealed full force on this CD, his debut release on the venerable Delmark label.

Sure, some of the material here fits hand-and-glove with what Muddy produced in the past, but Mud spent part of his youth playing bass in soul cover bands when not driving a truck like his dad did, and he changes things up a bit by infusing a taste of  gospel, too.

Mud composed eight of the 14 tracks on Portrait, and his rich, warm baritone carries the grooves throughout with backing from a who’s who of Windy City talent. Thirteen of the songs were recorded at under the supervision of Bob Corritore at Porcupine Productions in Chandler, Ariz., 11 years ago and 12 of them previously appeared Morganfield’s Son of the Seventh Son Severn CD in 2012.

While on the surface this disc might appear to be a reissue, however, it’s far more than that. Sandwiched between one cut captured recently in Chicago and another, previously unreleased track from the Arizona session, all of Seventh Son material take on new life of its own after being lovingly remixed and remastered in analog by veteran bluesman “Studebaker” John Grimaldi.

The lineup includes Rick Kreher – a member of Muddy’s last band – and Billy Flynn – a Grammy winner for his contributions on the Cadillac Records movie soundtrack — on guitars and a rhythm section composed of E.G. McDaniel on bass and Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith on drums with Harmonica Hinds and Corritore on harp and Barrelhouse Chuck on piano for all but the track No. 1, which was captured by Blaise Barton at Joyride Studios in Chicago in 2021, includes Mike Wheeler on guitar, Luca Chiellini on keys, a choir composed of Felicia Collins, Shantina Lowe and Demetrius Hall and Morganfield on bass.

Mud starts things off on a solemn note by taking you to church with “Praise Him” to open. Recorded digitally, it swings from the hip atop a rock-steady shuffle as he recounts turning his back on his wayward ways after a spiritual awakening one morning. His newfound joy is expressed via call-and-response with the choir throughout.

Things heat up immediately, however, through a red-hot rereading of sax player J.T. Brown’s “Short Dressed Woman,” which celebrates a lady who “shows her big brown legs to just anybody she please” and gives Barrelhouse space to show why he was the foremost keyboard player in the Windy City in the current era. The pace slows for “Son of the Seventh Son.” Penned by Grimaldi, it strings together several of Muddy’s trademark phrases and gives Mud space to take Waters’ feel forward to a new generation.

A run of four Morganfield originals kicks off with “Love to Flirt,” a complaint in which the singer fears his lady will get him killed because of her actions with others every time they leave the house. Borrowing a page from Bobby Rush’s “Night Fishing” theme, “Catfishing” uses angler imagery and thinly veiled sexual innuendo as Mud – with pole in hand – announces he’s “goin’ way down in your bottom like a natural-born lover man.” It flows into “Health,” a slow-blues burner that insists that it doesn’t matter how rich or famous you are if you’re not healthy enough to enjoy it.

The heat’s on once more for the uptempo, “Loco Motor,” a percussive pleaser in which Morganfield’s riding the rails enroute to New Orleans in search of a lady with “fine black hair and no underwear.” Flynn delivers a dazzling mid-tune solo on that one and penned the number “Money (Can’t Buy Everything),” which celebrates everything it can’t before easing into “Midnight Lover,” a minor-key ballad about cheating with a woman while her man works the night shift and paying the singer paying the price when he returns home.

Corritore’s “Go Ahead and Blame Me” and a cover of Muddy’s “You Can’t Lose What You Ain’t Never Had” bookend the original “Leave Me Alone” before Morganfield’s “Blues in My Shoes” and a previously unreleased version of Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Good Morning Little School Girl” bring the disc to a close.

Looking for the gold standard in traditional Chicago blues? You can’t go wrong with this one. Even if you already own the previous version, this one’s definitely worth the listen.

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