Howlin’ Wolf | Rockin’ the Blues: Live In Germany, 1964

Acrobat (2008)
By JEFF TAMARKIN  |  November 20, 2008
3.5 3.5 Stars

howlinwolfinside.jpg

Apparently he was something of a pussycat off stage, but the public face of Chester "Howlin' Wolf" Burnett — pound for intimidating, throaty, six-foot-three pound the world's nastiest-sounding bluesman - is the one that asserts itself at this '64 Bremen, Germany gig, part of the American Folk Blues Festival. Wolf brought with him the finest blues players in Chicago - Willie Dixon on bass, Sunnyland Slim on piano, longtime guitarist Hubert Sumlin, and Clifton James on drums - and the quintet wastes no time getting gritty.

The opener, Dixon's "Shake It for Me," is a forward-thrusting thumper that gives both Sumlin and Slim ample opportunity to strut; and "Rockin' the Blues" does just what it advertises, coming the closest to the sparse but potent, otherworldly rawness that caused Sun Records' Sam Phillips to sign Wolf on the spot in the early '50s. "Howlin' for My Darlin'" and the obligatory reading of "Dust My Broom" are incendiary, but the slow blues of "Going Down Slow" and "I Didn't Mean To Hurt Your Feelings" reveal another side - a sensitivity beneath the gruffness.

The fidelity of the recording is far from state-of-the-art, but its historical value - and sheer musicality - more than make up for any qualities that might peeve audiophiles.

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