Recorded at the Newport Jazz Festival at Newport, Rhode Island, on the third of July 1960, as the title suggests, this record is probably one of the most consistent blues documents of the past decade. Muddy Waters and his fellow musicians that day played a well-balanced roster of songs, including great classic tunes of the father of the Chicago Blues, but also some newer ones in order to amaze the audience a little bit, without causing too much disappointment between the old hardcore fanbase.
Sonically, the album stands as impressive to this day: it’s a quite decorous recording (for its times) of a powerful, robust and groovy gig, the audio is quite clear and all the different layers of the diverse instrumentation come to life, creating a lively blues fresco that it’s impossible to resist, the listener being sunk in a still-rising electric-blues cyclone mainly composed of the harsh but still warm vocal phrases and timbre that made Waters a legend.
The commanding drum work of Francis Clay that actually pops up and stands out in the mix, supporting in this way the whole groove of the band, is one that’s capable of constructing at the same time a solid rhythm backbone, emphasized by the intertwining and groovy conversation with the piano riff.
The blasting drums are especially present in tunes like “I’ve Got My Mojo Working” and “Got My Mojo Working Pt. 2” where the listener will be finding themself face to face with a flawless percussion execution, so accurate and engaging that at times the drums seem to capture all of the listener’s attention, even prevailing over all of the other musical elements, this thanks also to the aggressive jazzy-style percussion playing that Clay adopted in these songs.
In other notorious tracks like “Baby, Please Don’t Go” and “I’m Your Hoochie-Coochie Man”, the momentum of the track is achieved through a clever use of the harmonica by James Cotton that is able to perfectly blend together the guitar playing of Waters and Pat Hare, so that the listener is pulled in between this flamboyant performance, and as the minutes run by is progressively absorbed in this blues musical landscape, a pure scenery of burning emotions, melancholia, grief, but also lightheartedness and gratitude.
Summing up At Newport 1960, we’re undoubtedly talking about one of the historic records that marked a significant shift regarding the blues genre towards its electric variant, but nonetheless this piece of music remains significant as a testimony of a great ride on sentiments that only some bluesmen can summon.