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Spotlights [Issue # 21 ]
Charlie Musselwhite: Living The Blues

By Lynne Bronstein

Blues aficionados regard Charlie Musselwhite as a master among blues harmonica players since his debut in the late ‘60s with Stand Back: Here Comes Charlie Musselwhite’s Southside Band. That mastery provides the enjoyment on Musselwhite’s latest album, Delta Hardware (Real World).

Setting the “Let’s party!” mood with the opening track, “Church Is Out,” the band – drummer June Core, guitarist Chris Anderson, bassist Randy Bermudez, and Musselwhite on vocals and trademark harmonica – play like they’re in a small smoky bar at midnight and everyone’s feeling no pain.

“The blues,” says Musselwhite,” is about getting through hard times and enjoying the good times. That’s where I’m coming from.”

But two songs on the album speak to hard times. “Black Water” deals with the flood that followed Hurricane Katrina, while “Invisible Ones” is about poor people. On this subject, Musselwhite pulls no punches.

“This administration is not concerned about poor people. They don’t have money and they don’t vote, so who cares? It’s a shame that people have become afraid to speak their minds because this administration is so vengeful. It’s an American right to say what you think!

“I’ve never said anything before because people come to hear music, they want to be entertained, not preached to. But I felt I had to say something because this is awful!”

On one track, “Town To Town,” Musselwhite returns to his first instrument – the guitar.

“I’ve played guitar on many albums. Often people didn’t know it was me. There wasn’t any reason [for me to play on that track] except I just felt like it. When I first left Memphis and went to Chicago, there were just tons of guitar players and very few harmonica players. I ended up working as a harmonica player so I could get work. I don’t know that I like one or the other better. I guess I should say that I like the harmonica because it gave me a career.”

Musselwhite has also branched out into film soundtracks with the forthcoming Black Snake Moan, in which Samuel Jackson plays a blues musician. Of his work on the score, Musselwhite says: “Craig Brewer, the director, would talk about how he imagined the music would follow the scene. And when he played us a scene, we played along with it. It was a hell of a lot of fun.”

Over the years, Charlie Musselwhite has had his fun and his down times, including a lengthy struggle with alcoholism. But he sees his work and personal victories paying off now.

“I remember after the Vietnam War there were a lot of veterans that I ran into who mentioned how they had my first album in Vietnam and how it somehow meant something to them, it got them through some hard times. Other people that know I have quit drinking told me how it has helped them to have the courage to face their own alcoholism and quit. So it’s real pleasing to me that in some way I have been able to give people strength and joy too.”

Delta Hardware

Living The Blues Charlie Musselwhite Delta Hardware

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