Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Sonny Boy Williamson: The Essential Sonny Boy Williamson [Chess, 1993]
Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf cast themselves as forces of nature--fecund, feral. They were younger men, and for them blues already had an aura of myth. In his personal life, the former Rice Miller was harder to control than either. But when it came to business, the least famed of Chess's three W's did what had to be done, which turned out to mean electrifying in the '30s and impersonating Sonny Boy I, a harmonica hero half as talented and 15 years his junior. Miller's writing was as factual as a police complaint, his groove as sexy as a swamp in June, and he sang in the strong, slurred, subtle voice of someone who'd been talking his way out of shit since he learned to say maybe. Songs like "Eyesight to the Blind" and "Nine Below Zero" and "Fattening Frogs for Snakes" are in the canon. Songs like "Too Young To Die" and "Santa Claus" should be. A