Album: Howlin' Wolf, Smokestack Lightning: The Complete Chess Masters 1951-1960 (Hip-O Select)


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The Independent Culture

Presumably the first volume of an ongoing series, this 4CD set follows Howlin' Wolf's career from his discovery, at the age of 41, by Sam Phillips through to the earliest of the Chicago sessions with Willie Dixon that established Wolf as the most potent force in the blues.

 His voice on the earliest tracks here seems artificially low, buried amongst the instruments, as if it's an animal that has to be caged, for our safety. Later on, it would be triumphantly released on tracks like "Howlin' For My Baby", "Forty Four" and "Smokestack Lightnin'", its relaxed but menacing charm evocative of a lumbering big guy unnaturally light on his feet. Though stopping just short of Wolf's later crowning glories, this set offers the most striking depiction of the link between haunting country-blues moans and house-rocking Chicago blues.

Download This: How Many More Years; Forty Four; Smokestack Lightnin'; Howlin' For My Baby; Spoonful