photo & text by nacrowe
BLUES was always a genre that took me a long time to find an entry point. part of that is the fact that i was raised on the more easily digestible and frankly soulless culturally appropriated versions by BRITISH INVASION acolytes like ERIC CLAPTON. it was only in my late 20s when i discovered the likes of ELMORE JAMES, JUNIOR WELLS, LITTLE WALTER and especially HOWLIN' WOLF that i developed a fell and appreciation for the deep deep passion and depths of pained expression transformed into high art that is the BLUES.
what drew me to the music of HOWLIN' WOLF was that voice. that deep lower register and ragged timbre and quality of his singing that seemed to convey a seemingly bottomless well of hard experience and disappointment. there is something existential at play in his music, like he is living off of every syllable. that economy of expression was something i found incredibly moving when i first came across his memorable covers of WILLIE DIXON standards like "SPOONFUL," "LITTLE RED ROOSTER" and "SHAKE FOR ME" off of his self-titled, second album HOWLIN' WOLF (CHESS, 1962).
i was lucky enough to visit SUN STUDIO in MEMPHIS years ago with my family, where HOWLIN' WOLF recorded his initial material with SAM PHILLIPS in the same legendary recording facility that also served as the entry point for other seminal AMERICAN icons like ROY ORBISON, CARL PERKINS, JERRY LEE LEWIS, JOHNNY CASH and of course, ELVIS PRESLEY. definitely one of the coolest rooms ive ever inhabited where you can feel the weight of history. definitely worth the trip if you have the inclination.
if you are fan of transcendent mid-20th century AMERICAN musical forms, whether that be BEBOP, ROCKABILLY or even MODERN COMPOSERS, then i highly recommend you check out HOWLIN' WOLF. very much worth the effort.