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Folk Singer
Studio album by
ReleasedJanuary 30, 1964 (1964-01-30) [1]
RecordedSeptember 1963
StudioTel Mar Recording, Chicago, Illinois
Genre Blues
Label Chess
Producer Ralph Bass, Willie Dixon
Muddy Waters chronology
At Newport 1960
Folk Singer
The Real Folk Blues

Folk Singer is the fourth studio album by Muddy Waters, released in January 1964 by Chess Records. The album features Waters on acoustic guitar, backed by Willie Dixon on string bass, Clifton James on drums, and Buddy Guy on acoustic guitar. It is Waters's only all-acoustic album. Numerous reissues of Folk Singer include bonus tracks from two subsequent sessions, in April 1964 and October 1964.

Despite not charting in any country, Folk Singer received critical acclaim; most reviewers praised its high-quality sound, especially on remastered versions, as well as the instrumentation. In 2003, the album was ranked number 280 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.


After his successful performance at Newport Jazz Festival and tours through America, Chess Records encouraged Waters to record songs for a new studio album. Before the recording, several musicians had left Waters's band, and others had joined Waters. Andrew Stephens, who played at Newport, was replaced in the following years with numerous bassists. The drummer Francis Clay was replaced by Willie "Big Eyes" Smith, who played in the Muddy Waters Junior Band. Pat Hare was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of his wife (while in jail, he formed the band Sounds Incarcerated). [2] Hare was replaced by a succession of guitarists, including James "Pee Wee" Madison, who played a right-handed guitar left-handed. Madison played guitar on some of the reissue bonus tracks, as did Sammy Lawhorn. Lawhorn allegedly suffered from narcolepsy ( Elvin Bishop denied this, believing that Lawhorn's sleepiness was due to alcoholism). [3] The electric guitarist Buddy Guy, who had recorded with Waters on Blues from Big Bill's Copacabana, released by Chess in 1963, was hired. Guy had been discovered by Waters shortly after Guy arrived in Chicago from Louisiana. [4]


Folk Singer is an "unplugged" recording and differs from his earlier albums, which featured an electric blues sound. The title of the album was chosen by Chess Records because it was recorded during the time when folk music was popular. In order to appeal to fans of folk music, Chess recorded a more acoustic album with two acoustic guitarists. Buddy Guy was hired as the second guitarist. Other guitarists played on bonus tracks. [5] Guy played on all original songs, except the last song, "Feel Like Going Home", together with Waters. [6]

The recording took place at the Ter Mar Recording Studios, in Chicago, in September 1963, and was produced by Willie Dixon. [7] The original vinyl release includes nine songs, most of which are performed at a slower tempo, with the exception of the uptempo "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl". During recording, Waters emphasized his singing with hums and sighs. [8]

Releases and tour

The original album was released as an LP January 30, 1964 by Chess Records. [1] Since then, numerous record labels have released different versions on CD, with different bonus tracks from Waters's 1964 sessions. One of the first CD versions was released in 1993 by Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab, containing two bonus tracks, "You Can't Lose What You Never Had" and "The Same Thing." [9] The 1999 remastered version contains five bonus tracks, "The Same Thing", "You Can't Lose What You Never Had", "My John the Conqueror Root", "Short Dress Woman" and "Put Me In Your Lay Away". [10]

The supporting tour through Europe, the second American Folk Blues Festival, began one month after the recording of Folk Singer. The first gig out of seventeen took place in London; other performances were in Belgium, Germany, France and Denmark. In London, Waters began with the unreleased "My Captain", followed by " Rollin' Stone". In keeping with the folk theme, quiet versions of " Five Long Years", "Blow Wind Blow", " Trouble No More", "My Home Is in the Delta" and " Got My Mojo Working" were performed. [11]

Critical reception

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic [6]
Down Beat [12]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music [13]
MusicHound Blues3.5/5 [13]
Q [14]
Record Mirror [15]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide [13]
The Penguin Guide to Blues Recordings [16]

Reviewing the original LP in 1964, Down Beat magazine found Waters's singing "forced and artificial", and said Folk Singer suffers from a major flaw: "He only begins to come close to the power and unforced intensity of the original numbers and style from time to time, as on 'You Gonna Need My Help' and 'My Home Is in the Delta'". [12] In a retrospective review, Cub Koda, writing for AllMusic was more enthusiastic, deeming the record's sound fresh and vital. [6] Reviewing its 1993 CD reissue, Rolling Stone wrote, "...There aren't too many blues albums that qualify as audiophile recordings, but Muddy Waters Folk Singer surely does. A wonderfully intimate session, it delivers Waters' voice in all its power and subtlety, while rendering his guitar work...with such vivid realism, you would think you were sitting in the studio...." [17] Village Voice critic Robert Christgau found the remaster "luxurious and intimate", and the reissue in general "worthy addenda" to Waters' discography. [18]

In 2003, Rolling Stone ranked Folk Singer number 280 on its list of the " 500 Greatest Albums of All Time", writing that the "unplugged" playing was pioneering and has since been "beloved by blues and folk fans alike". [19] The ranking was updated to 282 in a 2012 revised list. [20]

Track listing

Side one
1."My Home Is in the Delta"Waters3:58
2."Long Distance"Waters3:30
3."My Captain" Willie Dixon5:10
4." Good Morning Little Schoolgirl" Sonny Boy Williamson3:12
5."You Gonna Need My Help"Waters3:09
Total length:18:59
Side two
1."Cold Weather Blues"Waters4:40
2."Big Leg Woman" John Temple3:25
3."Country Boy"Waters3:26
4."Feel Like Going Home"Waters3:52
Total length:15:23

1993 bonus tracks
10."You Can't Lose What You Ain't Never Had"Waters2:57
11."The Same Thing"Dixon2:46
Total length:40:05

1999 bonus tracks
10."The Same Thing"Dixon2:57
11."You Can't Lose What You Never Had"Waters2:46
12."My John the Conqueror Root"Dixon2:22
13."Short Dress Woman" John T. Brown2:49
14."Put Me in Your Lay Away"L.J. Welch2:56
Total length:48:12


Credits are adapted from AllMusic. [21]


  1. ^ a b Chess 1989, p. 26.
  2. ^ Gordon 2003, pp. 202–203.
  3. ^ Gordon 2003, pp. 203.
  4. ^ Gordon 2003, pp. 211.
  5. ^ Matthew Rowe. "Music Review". Musictap. Retrieved January 28, 2012.
  6. ^ a b c Cub Koda. "Allmusic -> Folk Singer". AllMusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved January 28, 2012.
  7. ^ Santelli 1997, p. 128.
  8. ^ Gordon 2003, pp. 212.
  9. ^ "Allmusic -> Folk Singer [Mobile Fidelity]". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved January 28, 2012.
  10. ^ "Folk Singer [Extra tracks, Original recording remastered]". Amazon. Retrieved January 28, 2012.
  11. ^ Gordon 2003, pp. 212–213.
  12. ^ a b Down Beat. Chicago. 31: 32. 1964.{{ cite journal}}: CS1 maint: untitled periodical ( link)
  13. ^ a b c "Folk Singer". Acclaimed Music. Archived from the original on September 25, 2015. Retrieved September 24, 2015.
  14. ^ Prince, Bill (March 1996). "Muddy Waters: Folk Singer". Q: 121.
  15. ^ "Muddy Waters: Folk Singer" (PDF). Record Mirror. No. 167. May 23, 1964. p. 8. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 1, 2022. Retrieved August 15, 2022.
  16. ^ Russell, Tony; Smith, Chris (2006). The Penguin Guide to Blues Recordings. Penguin. p. 482. ISBN  978-0-140-51384-4.
  17. ^ Rolling Stone, 3/10/94, p. 67.
  18. ^ Christgau, Robert (April 5, 1994). "Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. Retrieved March 26, 2020.
  19. ^ "500 Greatest Albums of All Time: 280 Folk Singer – Muddy Waters". Rolling Stone. Wenner Media. 2003. Archived from the original on November 3, 2011. Retrieved January 28, 2012.
  20. ^ "500 Greatest Albums of All Time Rolling Stone's definitive list of the 500 greatest albums of all time". Rolling Stone. 2012. Retrieved September 10, 2019.
  21. ^ Credits. AllMusic. Retrieved September 24, 2015.