Review: Charlie Musselwhite – The Well
Posted on: Thursday, Oct 7, 2010
(Alligator Records – AL4939″
Charlie Musselwhite’s latest release on the Alligator label is a very stripped back affair; there are no overblown histrionics on here, just 13 songs straight from the heart. Each song features either Charlie’s unique harmonica (using a good handful of positions) or Charlie’s acoustic guitar.
The whole CD features sympathetic backing by Dave Gonzales on guitars, John Bazz on electric and upright bass and Stephen Hodges on drums and percussion. Mavis Staples shares vocal duties on “Sad And Beautiful World”.
Musselwhite is a legend of the blues: one of the original sixties converts; he is dearly loved in the blues world. Although considered white, Charlie is actually of native American descent. Having explored a variety of styles, including in his forty year career, Charlie is back on home blues territory in his most personal release to date.
“Sorcerers Blues” is a slow and swampy affair with sparse acoustic guitar, a laid-back rhythm section and Charlie’s evocative harp lines and low vocals.
“Good times” is a more traditional Chicago blues with slide guitar and Charlie wondering after all life’s changes “Where did our good times go?”.
“Dig the pain” is the standout song for me featuring a lovely jazzy feel and great lyrics about how Musselwhite can’t leave his relationship with the bottle even though it causes him pain. This is especially fitting as Charlie is famously tee-total these days after many years as a big drinker.
The most emotional song is the so-sad aforementioned Mavis Staples duet “Sad And Beautiful World” a message to Charlie’s mother murdered at the family home in Memphis during a burglary.
“Clarksdale Getaway” is a harp workout featuring sweet and imaginative first position harmonica showing why Musselwhite is so well regarded by the harmonica world.
“Hoodoo Queen” takes us to New Orleans with stripped back, wah-wah guitar building to a climax featuring the whole band, layered guitars and Musselwhite’s evocative harmonica lines .
“Where Hwy 61 runs” is a Magic Sam styled Chicago Blues, showing Musselwhitee’s pedigree being born in the rural south in Kosciusko, Mississippi with Highway 61 on his back door, this one is remeniscent of ” The Blues Overtook Me” from “Ace of Harps” one of Charlie’s previous hit records on Alligator.
Nobody would list Charlie as one of the worlds greatest vocalists, these days he speaks most of the end of his lines. But of you are looking for well written, emotional and autobiographical songs in a variety of blues styles by a master bluesman then look no further.
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