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Published: 2009/03/27
by Brian Ferdman

Muddy Waters Live at ChicagoFest

Shout! Factory 826663 11304

In August of 1981, Muddy Waters headlined two nights of ChicagoFest and was greeted by an enthusiastic, capacity crowd. Indeed, the audience for what was then Chicago’s top outdoor music festival was overjoyed to see their hero performing for his adopted hometown. Waters’ move from Mississippi to Chicago was one of the pivotal events in the boom of electric blues music, and Chicagoans were always supportive of the full-throated slide guitarist.

For his part, Muddy is in fine spirits when opening with a rollicking and pulsating “Mannish Boy.” Not only does he relish every word of his lyrics, but he also gets up off his seat to jump and prowl across the stage, firing up the already overexcited audience. From there, things settle into a more mellow blues groove with Muddy sitting down to pick up his slide, slinking through standards, such as “You Don’t Have To Go,” “Baby Please Don’t Go,” and “I’m a King Bee.” His own “Trouble No More” picks up the pace a bit before guitarist Johnny Winter is welcomed onstage to raise the ante with some growling vocals and wailing solos on “Going Down Slow.” Winter’s presence clearly inspires Waters, who responds with some great slide solos of his own on “She’s Nineteen Years Old.” After some fun guest vocals from Mighty Joe Young and Big Twist, the whole shebang wraps up with a “Got My Mojo Working” finale.

While taking place less than two years before his death at the age of 70, Muddy Waters appears to be in fine form and in a surprisingly sprightly condition throughout this performance. His set is full of vim and vigor, and the crowd naturally loves every minute of it. Unfortunately, the audio sounds as if it was taken straight from a simple two-track recording, and therefore, it doesn’t quite pop. Nevertheless, this is a nice snapshot of a legend who still had it, even towards the end of his career.

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