The Woodstock Album
By James Calemine
Recorded in two days at Levon Helm's studio in Woodstock, New York, during February 1975, this album marked Muddy Waters' last session for Chess Records after 27 years of recording.
The Woodstock Album navigates from Chicago blues lattitudes into deep country-jazz territory. Diverse musical heavyweights such as Waters (guitar/vocals), Helm (drums/bass), Pinetop Perkins (piano), Garth Hudson (organ/accordian/saxophone), Paul Butterfield (harmonica), Bob Margolin (guitar), Howard Johnson (saxophone) and Fred Carter (bass/guitar) serve as Muddy Waters' steel-blue band. The Woodstock Album blends various traditional American musical styles into one streamlined roadhouse sound.
Helm represents virtuosity at the drumming position. His style fits the inimitable Muddy Waters country-blues mastery. The rollicking "Goin' Down Main Street" makes one wonder the fire this band would've started in some sawdust Mississippi juke joint on a dramatic Friday night.
Waters' slide on "Born With Nothing" reminds why his legend began nearly 30 years before 1975. "Funny Sounds" evokes a sparse, but powerful structure, reminiscent of The Band's sensibility, propelled by Muddy Waters singing and playing guitar.
"I don't write nothing but stone blues," Waters said just before his mercurial slide leads the band into a centerpiece version of "Love, Deep As The Ocean". Between wicked slide runs and Perkins' piano stabs, Waters sings: "I love that girl/Like a horse loves his oats."
The low-bottom, R & B, Waters original--"Fox Squirrel"--contains a magic deep in the groove the ladies always find interesting. The Woodstock Album carries a hard-boiled blues tradition of cutting a great album in a day, or two...