Review: Charlie Musselwhite – Juke Joint Chapel

Posted on: Saturday, Jan 25, 2014


Charlie Musselwhite – Juke Joint Chapel

(Henrietta Records)

The career of Charlie Musselwhite has so far spanned over 45 years since his first album, which was ‘Stand Back’ for the Vanguard label in 1967; he has subsequently gone on to record over 20 albums also, during this time this living legend has been a recipient of many blues honours such as; a seven-time Grammy nominee, 27 ‘Blues Music Awards,’ eight ‘Living Blues Awards’, he also, has been inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.

During 2012 he collaborated with Ben Harper on the album ‘Get Up’ and has, since its release in January, 2013 been energetically touring in support of the album.  As part of an earlier tour Charlie and his band were due to play at the Juke Joint Chapel, Shack Up Inn, on Highway 49 in Clarksdale; When the band arrived there and learnt that the ‘Chapel’ had full recording facilities it was decided to record the performance for posterity.

So, on 12th August, 2012, Charlie and his band – June Core; drums, Matt Stubbs; guitar and Mike Phillips; bass plugged in, cranked up the volume and played. The twelve numbers here are played with an air of relaxed confidence, a suppleness of will and most of all a huge amount of enjoyment. Upon hearing the first number, it is evident that a ‘feelgood’ juke joint atmosphere emanates as one from both the band and the audience; it is one of complete bonhomie.

Eddie Taylor’s “Bad Boy”, begins the proceedings with a loose-limbed shoulder shuffling feel, gentle swirling guitar combines with an insistent concoction of swampy and Chicago styled driven harmonica, this groove is continued with obvious audience approval, as Charlie’s distinctive raw harmonica edges of ‘Shakey Jake’ Harris’s “Roll Your Money Maker”, fuses with driving, flourishing guitar which becomes more and more gloopy and swampy as the number continues.

Walter Jacobs’s “It Ain’t Right”, is a fast-paced shuffler which is dominated by cracking and ferocious drum work, Charlie adds equally furious harmonica interjections that simply take your breath away, underneath all this, some nifty fretwork delivers a pleasing Texan feel. The Tony Joe White number “As The Crow Flies”, features a bright, springy almost, rockabilly, guitar feel that rolls along like a cheerful steam train complete with belching, low down, grinding harmonica passages.

Charlie’s own delightful “River Hip Mamma”, allows the band to create a brisk and bright John Lee Hooker guitar groove with an urging, insistent wheezing, and breezy raw edged harmonica. One of the most heartfelt and achingly touching numbers is “Christo Redemptor”, a thoughtful and insightful slow burner that is a masterpiece of emotional harmonica control, which fittingly ends this hour of joyful revelry.

All you have to do is bring your own beer!

Highly recommended!


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