Friday, February 24, 2012

From the Delta to Chicago

Listening to Muddy Waters "Country Blues"  in class sounded oddly similar to The Butterfield Blues Band cover of "Walkin Blues".   As I listened to the track playing, it made me think about how the influence of different genres of music flow across any sort of racial lines.  Muddy Waters left an impression on native born Chicagoan Paul Butterfield along with innumerable others.  Paul Butterfield took the Chicago electric blues style and honed it to his own particular style.  His first two albums: The self titled, "The Paul Butterfield Blues Band" and subsequent "East - West" are prime examples that resonate with what the band picked up from listening to Muddy Waters.

The circle of music doesn't have any boundaries.  While I was looking for examples of The Butterfield Blues Band performing "Walkin Blues", I came across Robert Johnson.  Also a Delta blues man like Muddy Waters, Johnson recorded his cover of the blues standard "Walking Blues" in 1936. The tie in to this is the "A" side for the single: "Sweet Home Chicago".   This song has become one of the anthems for the city of Chicago.  The lyrics have ben altered to reflect a more Chicago centric tone.  The original references to California are now gone in the modern renditions.

Back to my original thought about how familiar "Country Blues" sounded; listening to Robert Johnson's performance of "Walkin Blues"  from 1936 brought to light why Muddy Waters' song resonated with me.  Muddy Waters' tune from 1941 was from the same time period and took cues from the blues standard.  The circle of music is nicely intertwined with Chicago on many levels: Muddy Waters bringing it up to Chicago and electrifying the delta Blues, Paul Butterfield embracing the blues from his home town covering a Robert Johnson song (Walkin' Blues), and Robert Johnson's "Sweet Home Chicago" becoming a song embraced by the city.

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