march 2012

Mud Morganfield: off to a good start

Focused On the Fundamentals
(Money Can’t Buy Everything)

By David McGee

mud morganfieldSON OF THE SEVENTH SON
Mud Morganfield
Severn Records

Born in Chicago on September 27, 1954, Larry Williams, aka Mud Morganfield, is the eldest son of McKinley Morganfield, aka Muddy Waters, and he’s doing a good job of making up for lost time on this, the followup to his 2008 studio debut, Fall Waters Fall. Up until about 2005, Mud wasn’t much known outside his own household, but when he finally took the plunge into live performance he caused a stir. Rightly so: Mud sings with the hefty voice and swaggering attitude of his beloved father (they sound uncannily alike), he writes solid blues tunes and he’s surrounded himself with a strictly top drawer cast of musicians, starting with harmonica master Bob Corritore, who splits harp chores with the formidable Harmonica Hinds (who also appeared on Fall Waters Fall) but goes the extra mile by producing the whole affair with a bright, sparkling sound that has the freewheeling ambiance of a live set but the depth a studio provides. On guitar Mud (strictly a vocalist and songwriter) features two Chicago stalwarts in Rick Kreher (another Fall Waters Fall alum) and Billy Flynn (whose song “Money Can’t Buy Everything” is one of the album’s philosophical and musical highlights, blessed as it is by Barrelhouse Chuck’s rich sumptuous organ work and Mud’s no-nonsense delivery of Flynn’s message), with E.G. McDaniel on bass and—this is beautiful—Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith on drums, he being the son of Muddy’s great drummer, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith.

Mud Morganfield, accompanied by Big Joe Louis & His Blues Kings on his sell-out debut English tour, 2007, performs ‘Walking Through the Park’

Much like his father, Mud has his songs about woman trouble, but he also works in some pragmatic philosophy, words to live by, you might say. For instance:

“I’ve got money in the bank/but it don’t mean a thing without good health” (“Health”)

“I learned a long time ago/money can’t buy you everything” (“Money [Can’t Buy Everything]”)

“You know you made some bad decisions/Go ahead on and put the blame on me (“Go Ahead and Blame Me”)

“You can’t lose what you ain’t never had.” (“You Can’t Lose What You Ain’t Never Had”)

Yes, that last lyric comes from a Muddy song, to which Mud gives a lowdown treatment, with profound assists from a moaning electric slide guitar and Barrelhouse Chuck’s moody piano ruminations. What that song says about counting your blessings is kind of the subtext of Son of the Seventh Son, i.e., taking responsibility, defining a good life on something other than monetary terms, keeping one’s spiritual and physical self together as a means of making good things happen. This all sounds rather heavy but it goes down easy.

In Sao Paulo, Brazil, April 2011, Mud Morganfield and the Igor Prado Blues Project record Mud’s ‘Loco Motion.’ Backed by a band of Chicago blues all-stars and produced by Bob Corritore, Mud had already recorded the song for his Son of the Seventh Son album.

Mud and company kick things off with a frisky ode to a “Short Dress Woman,” and you can tell, as the band cooks behind him, how much Mud enjoys singing about the gal’s “big fine legs.” A couple of tunes later, Barrelhouse emphasizes his nickname on Mud’s “Love to Flirt,” a cool, stomping blues about a lady who loves to entice the lads—even her pastor! Harmonica Hinds has some fine moments moaning on the upbeat “Loco Motor,” this being a rocking account of Mud’s journey to the Crescent City in search of a good woman, with some more rollicking piano work courtesy Mr. Barrelhouse. On another Mud original, “Midnight Lover,” guitar, piano and Corritore’s lush harp work establish a somber ambiance as Mud croons deliberately of an adulterous affair worthy of a Clarence Carter scenario (the woman’s husband works at night and our man is eager to make his move), his cautious vocal betraying his guilt as much as it does his lust. It’s the kind of sultry performance that would give MSNBC’s Chris Matthews a tingle up his leg.

Which is not to suggest the abovementioned “message” songs are dour by any means. The easygoing swing of Flynn’s “Money (Can’t Buy Everything),” with Corritore’s lively harp and Barrelhouse complementing his bandmate with some spunky flights on the organ, perfectly captures the feel of a man who has learned the wisdom of the song title (although at the end, when he starts musing about playing the lottery, you sense he’s backsliding on us); and though “Health,” which is purely and simply about the virtues of staying fit as a fiddle as the key to happiness, is a slow, grinding blues, it has a lightness to it—maybe thanks to Barrelhouse’s right-hand flights to the outer reaches of the organ’s range—as Mud lays down his cautionary advisory in matter of fact style. Well, here’s hoping the son of the seventh son is taking his own advice to heart, so to speak, because we need him to hang around for awhile and grace us with a few more life lessons. Since Fall Waters Fall he’s advanced considerably as a writer, no longer so reliant on dad’s melodies and lyrics as he was on his debut, and in focusing on the fundamentals of the human condition may well have found his own voice—yet another reason for another chapter, but soon.

Mud Morganfield’s Son of the Seventh Son is available at

Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Laura Fissinger, Christopher Hill, Derk Richardson
Logo Design: John Mendelsohn (
Website Design: Kieran McGee (
Staff Photographers: Audrey Harrod (Louisville, KY;, Alicia Zappier (New York)
Mailing Address: David McGee, 201 W. 85 St.—5B, New York, NY 10024