"The Real Folk Blues" series, which saw releases featuring Sonny Boy, Howlin' Wolf, John Lee Hooker, and Muddy Waters, was designed to attract young white blues fans to the Chess labels "electric" artists. There is nothing too folkish about these early-60s sides, and they are certainly no more "country" than Aleck "Rice" Miller's other Chess waxings (all of which were band-backed and electric), and while the MCA/Chess-compilations "His Best" and "The Essential Sonny Boy Williamson" remain the best career overviews, this one has a lot to offer as well, and a few of these songs don't show up on either "His Best" or the "Essential" anthology.
"The Real Folk Blues" opens with one of Rice Miller's (Sonny Boy Williamson's) best, toughest songs, the powerful, up-tempo "One Way Out", followed by the equally magnificent "Too Young To Die".
Not all of these twelve songs maintain the incredible level of quality found on MCA's main Sonny Boy-compilations, but even second-rate Rice Miller blows most other artists' best efforts out of the water, and his way with words was unmatched. The ageing harpist is totally believable when he delivers the line "When I first met you, little girl / I didn't know what I was doin' / Now we're all tied up / and my life is ruined" in his raspy voice.
Other highlights include "Checkin' Up On My Baby", one of Rice Miller's finest songs, Willie Dixon's "Bring It On Home" (later nicked by Led Zeppelin), the irresistable, funky "Peach Tree", and the morose "Too Old To Think".
This album is usually only available on a twofer-CD paired with its sister volume, "More Real Folk Blues", but since that one is (almost) as great, you won't hear any complaints from me.
Sonny Boy could always be counted on to deliver a slice of intelligent, tightly arranged, supremely confident electric blues of the highest order.