Bob Margolin has been a blues musician for a long time. My Road reflects the story of his long career and that of his mentor Muddy Waters.
For this album, the band lineup is very basic, just the regular touring ensemble of Margolin on guitar, Chuck Cotton on drums, and Ted Walters on the harmonica. Cotton also provides harmony vocals from time to time. The emphasis is on the lyrics and the vocal, with the music more subdued. Margolin wrote half of the 12 songs, and those are the ones that are most autobiographical.
Margolin was part of Waters’ band from 1973 to 1980. The song that sets the tone for the album, “My Whole Life,” shows the influence of the great blues man as it starts things off with a hard-hitting blues.”More and More” and “I Shall Prevail” establish the pattern of powerful vocals and basic but effective accompaniment, as Margolin provides both lead and rhythm guitar while Cotton accompanies him alone on drums. For “Goodnight,” Margolin goes it alone in a tender country blues ballad that emphasizes the country.
“Understanding Heart” is an album highlight that provides thoughtful, inspiring lyrics and a syncopated rhythm. “Low Life Blues” changes the pace yet again and lets Walters shine on Little Walter-style on harmonica for a full-out Chicago-blues.
Next comes my favorite track, as Margolin and Cotton harmonize with only the harmonica behind them on Nappy Brown’s “Bye Bye Baby.” It’s a simple, stunning piece of work. It is followed by “Young and Old Blues,” a humorous look at how age is relative. Walters abandons the harmonica temporarily to play rhythm guitar on this one. “Ask Me No Questions” adds some rockabilly to the mix and “Feelin’ Right Tonight” continues on an upbeat note. But then “Devil’s Daughter” gives everything a darker, swampy note for a heavy contemporary blues.
“Heaven, Mississippi” brings us full circle, back to Muddy Waters and a heartfelt tribute to the man and his Mississippi roots.
My Road is as colorful and varied as Margolin’s life as a musician has been and, for the listener, it is a road well worth sharing.
Image: Bob Margolin in 1996 – Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B017WUWW4M]