Monday, July 21, 2014

Closer Look: 'I Can't Be Satisfied' - Muddy Waters

In two separate sessions back in 1941 and 1942, an aspiring young Muddy Waters recorded a few songs with famed folk historian Alan Lomax in a plantation in Stovall, Mississippi. These recordings were eventually released in 1993. 

He didn't hear back from him, as he hoped, and a year later traveled up north to Chicago in pursuit of his dream of being a successful musician. 

It  wasn't until 1948 however, when Muddy released 'I Can't Be Satisfied' on the Aristocrat label (later changed to Chess Records) and finally with it, came his eternal fame.

You see, while it's a simple 12-bar blues, with only an upright bass accompaniment by Ernest "Big" Crawford who banged the fingerboard to create a shuffling rhythm, Muddy played stripped down, raw Mississippi Delta blues. The twist was it was on an electric guitar.

It squealed and had an overdriven sound that was still in it's infancy back in that time, and soon enough the label couldn't release enough records to meet the demand.

The song was played in the typical Delta blues style, using open G tuning (D-B-G-D-G-D high to low), which facilitates easier slide playing and open chording. What he did was basically electrify the sound of the Delta blues, which was heard by those who left their homes in the South and it clicked immediately.

The words also reflect the travelling blues lifestyle such as:

"Well I'm goin' away to leave 
Won't be back no more 
Goin' back down south, child Don't you want to go? 

As well as the violent nature of the blues:

"Well I feel like snappin'
a Pistol in your face
I'mma let some graveyard
Lord be her resting place"

with the repeating chorus being:

"Woman I'm troubled, I be all worried in mind 
Well baby I just can't be satisfied
 And I just can't keep from cryin'"

On his Grammy winning 1977 comeback album Hard Again, released with help of the late Johnny Winter, a newly recorded version was included, 29 years later:

Since then, Muddy Waters was known as the 'King of the Electric Chicago Blues', for sparking the new sound that led to the new decade of dominance in the 1950's.

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