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Real Folk Blues / More Real Folk Blues (Blues Classics Revisited & Remastered)

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Album Review

The Real Folk Blues series on Chess wasn't really folk, but titled that way, perhaps to gain the attention of young white listeners who had started to get turned on to the blues during the 1960s folk revival. And the Howlin' Wolf volumes in the series were not particularly more folk-oriented than his other Chess recordings, but more or less arbitrary selections of tracks that he'd done from the mid-'50s to the mid-'60s. It's thus also arbitrary to do a two-fer reissue of his The Real Folk Blues and More Real Folk Blues, combined here onto a single disc. That doesn't mean, though, that this isn't very good and sometimes great electric blues music. The Real Folk Blues, with tracks from 1956 to 1965, is by far the more modern of the pair in arrangements, and has a good share of classics: "Killing Floor," "Sittin' on Top of the World," "Built for Comfort," "Tail Dragger," and "Three Hundred Pounds of Joy." There were some lesser-known cuts on that record as well, never less than good and sometimes very good, like the blues-folk staple "Louise" and the driving "Poor Boy," as well as a couple brassy 1965 recordings with both Hubert Sumlin and Buddy Guy on guitars. More Real Folk Blues, in contrast, consists entirely of 1953-1955 recordings, which are considerably more lo-fi and not as stuffed with high-class memorable material. Yet these are fine raw 1950s electric blues, and occasionally superb, as on the well-known "No Place to Go" and the propulsive "Just My Kind." You might already have some or many of the 24 tracks if you have a bunch of other Howlin' Wolf collections. But a lot of these, particularly from More Real Folk Blues, don't show up on the standard best-of anthologies, so more likely than not if you only have one or two Howlin' Wolf anthologies and want more, this is a pretty good one to get.


Born: 10 June 1910 in West Point, MS

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s

In the history of the blues, there has never been anyone quite like the Howlin' Wolf. Six foot three and close to 300 pounds in his salad days, the Wolf was the primal force of the music spun out to its ultimate conclusion. A Robert Johnson may have possessed more lyrical insight, a Muddy Waters more dignity, and a B.B. King certainly more technical expertise, but no one could match him for the singular ability to rock the house down to the foundation while simultaneously scaring its patrons out...
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