Rockin' The Blues: Live in Germany 1964
By James Calemine
Rockin’ The Blues captures Howlin’ Wolf in his prime. This CD features The Wolf backed by his stellar Chicago band that included guitarist Hubert Sumlin, songwriting bassist Willie Dixon, Sunnyland Slim on piano and Clifton James on drums. Born in West Point, Mississippi, Chester “Howlin’ Wolf” Burnett was one of the most imposing of all bluesmen.
This show was recorded right after the Rolling Stones enjoyed a #1 hit with Wolf's “Little Red Rooster”. The Stones insisted The Wolf appear on the TV show Shindig with them. This set was recorded at the third American Folk Blues Festival. Wolf was operating at a mystical zenith…
The opening track—a Dixon tune—“Shake It For Me” epitomizes unadulterated blues at its finest. Now this was a band that fired on all cylinders.. An original composition, “Love Me”, reveals the sheer power of this band. At 6’3 and 275 pounds, The Wolf was an imposing figure but to hear his powerful voice rendered him quite intimidating.
A quicksilver version of Elmore James’ “Dust My Broom” invokes a dancing fever that would inspire a knife fight in some Chicago juke joint. It’s a shame it took 44 years for this show to surface. “I Didn’t Mean To Hurt Your Feelings” illustrates the dynamic power of these musicians playing together. The piano and guitar weave electric serpentine riffs supported by Dixon’s bass and Wolf’s lyrics, “Y’know baby, I’m just a country boy...”
The title track, a flowing instrumental, drives towards a pure blues ethos even without Wolf’s menacing voice. The sapphire of this album is “Goin Down Slow” which can be covered by no on like The Wolf…it doesn’t get much better than this track. It’s interesting to hear Wolf address the band or the audience between songs. His classic “Forty-Four” closes the album in a gutbucket, gasoline-veined sentiment. This is one of the best releases of 2008.