At times it feels almost like a séance this evening. Someone has called on the spirit of Muddy Waters, and… can he have answered? No, but Mud Morganfield does have a good deal of Muddy’s presence and a great deal of his voice. There are moments when you really can shut your eyes and believe it’s his old man. Put him with a band that can reproduce the classic ensemble sound of 50s Chicago, and the illusion is complete. If you never saw Muddy Waters, this is absolutely the next best thing.
He opens at Boisdale as he means to go on, with one from the family repertoire, Blow Wind Blow, finishing with a trenchant: “That’s the blues there!” He follows it with I Want To Be Loved, Short Dress Woman, Baby Please Don’t Go… there are few surprises to be found in Morganfield’s setlist, and that, you can be sure, is deliberate. It may not be billed as such, but it’s a tribute evening. Unlike most tributes, though, this one comes from very close to the source.
A long, slow minor blues that’s all about cheating gives the band a chance to spread themselves. “Somebody got the blues!” exclaims Mud approvingly as Eric Ranzoni cascades on keyboards, and there are excellent solos by guitarist Tomi Leino and harmonica-player Steve “West” Weston. This group – completed by Ian Jennings on stand-up bass and Mike Hellier at the drums – is a joy throughout the evening, idiomatically spot-on but lively with it. Playing slide, Leino sounds so much like the Muddy Waters of the 50s that his son must have remembered being a kid back home, listening to his father. Weston has the thick, broad tone of Little (or indeed Big) Walter. And the sound is superb, the band’s engineer achieving that rare thing, an ensemble mix that is exactly right for music of this style and period, voice well to the fore, drums felt as much as heard.
Further trips down the Muddy road follow – I Don’t Know Why (a classic Chicago shuffle), Trouble No More, Young Fashioned Ways, Elevate Me Mama. A story about some skinny guy calling at the house when Morganfield was 12 years old and asking to see his dad: the visitor turns out to be Mick Jagger. Some original numbers, though deep in the paternal groove. Morganfield is fond of gesture, constantly clapping, pointing, finger- wagging. Dancers venture on to the floor.
This is a fine room for music, large but not cavernous, discreetly luxurious. Tonight, the Boisdale presents blues with class.