Back when “The Street Parade” was my radio show and not a blog, I planned my shows around birthdays, deaths, historical anniversaries etc. I have, then, a great big “book of days” that I still use to plan my day’s listening pleasures. Since I recently added a few posts concerning such dates, just thought I’d add another important one: yesterday was the great McKinley Morganfield’s birthday. Morganfield, best known as Muddy Waters, was born April 4, 1915. Seeing him late in his life, at a small theater in Maryland–backed by Pinetop Perkins and steady-rollin Bob Margoline–was one of the great thrills of my life. I certainly love that electric Chicago sound that Muddy defined, but for listening tribute, I actually recommend an acoustic album, “Folksinger.” The acoustic album actually lets you hear more of his vocal dynamics and range–it’s a classic:
On another note, I’m far behind the times on this one–since it’s already a grammy–but I thought I’d put a plug in for Levon Helm’s latest CD “Dirt Farmer.” I have always been a huge Band fan. In fact, their self-titled album is in my top-five all time list. I was never too thrilled, though, with their post “Last Waltz” material; after the split, things just never came back together to my mind. I did see a Robbie Robertson-less version of the Band play with the Dead in ’85, though, and the late-night duel-group jam was quite wonderful. The albums, though, just never did it. The loss of Richard Manuel and more recently of Rick Danko really signified the end–no more classic Band material. I was wrong, though. It’s not a Band album, but Levon’s recent work is up to par with some of the best. The sound is more acoustic, a bit more country and gospel, but it’s got the same sense of American amalgamation at the core. And his voice, while strained by his ongoing battle with throat cancer, sounds remarkably fresh. This is a fabulous album and I feel bad I was hesitant to listen.