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Muddy waters run deep 

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Big Bill Morganfield knows all about priceless family heirlooms.

The son of legendary blues icon Muddy Waters (born McKinley Morganfield), Big Bill carries with equanimity the weight of heredity's blessings and curses. Already considered one of the top blues songwriters and performers of his era, Big Bill has released three acclaimed albums, while refusing to merely revel within the impenetrable shadow cast by his father.

Indeed, with the exception of his father's guitars and touring amp, which he keeps close at all times, the most notable heirlooms bequeathed to Big Bill have been the intangibles.

It's in the genes -- the way Big Bill's deep voice rattles the bones, while languid guitar fills build momentum like a gathering storm. Big Bill's vintage Delta soul, while never sounding dated, certainly evokes the feeling of another era -- his father's era.

And yet, for many critics, the striking thing about Blues in the Blood, Big Bill's most recent album, is that despite the notable similarities in their sound, the son refuses to shy away from his father's pedigree and rather nonchalantly seems to accept the challenge, pushing blues in new directions and exploring unprecedented lyrical emotions. On an album that features 11 original compositions of auspicious quality, Big Bill includes one cover: a revitalized, beefed-up version of one of his dad's classics, "Evil."

It was Waters' death in 1983 that originally inspired Big Bill to pick up a guitar and write songs. After spending six years learning to play the instrument, Big Bill made his professional debut in a now legendary performance at Center Stage in Atlanta. Since then, Big Bill has developed into a masterful songwriter and performer, garnering recognition from numerous corners, including being named Best New Blues Artist at the 2000 W.C. Handy Awards.

With his father's spirit punctuating every riff, and every howl, watching Big Bill play Saturday night in Canon City might be as close as it gets to witnessing greatness.

-- Joe Kuzma

capsule

Big Bill Morganfield

Saturday, July 24, 9 p.m.

Annex Ballroom, 509 Main St., Cañon City

$10

719/276-3088

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