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Cirque Du Soleil
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Cirque Du Soleil
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Jim Pearce
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Time Line
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Anoushka Shankar

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Julius Curcio
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Alligator Shoes
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"Come Alive"
Changing Into Me
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Spotlights [Issue # 8 ]
Charlie Musselwhite: Musselwhite Finds Sanctuary In Music

By Dave Lewis

A true legend of the blues idiom, harmonica monster Charlie Musselwhite returns with Sanctuary (Real World Records). Bringing a rough, uneasy feeling back to blues-rock, Musselwhite also dabbles in folk, Southern boogie, and with the help of the Blind Boys of Alabama, gospel.

In a recent telephone interview, Musselwhite explained why Sanctuary might come across to some listeners as a heavy collection of serious-minded, haunted tunes. “I think these are dark and edgy times,” he said. “The same way that the blues is like a comforter for somebody going through hard times, I had hoped that the listener would find this album to be like a refuge or sanctuary from the dark times that we’re in now.”

For Musselwhite, music has always had the power to heal. “Music is a great way to touch people,” he said. “Even if you’re in another country where you don’t understand the language, it will still resonate with you.”

Growing up in Mississippi, and later in Memphis, Musselwhite was always surrounded by music. “Blues was just part of my environment,” he said, “I remember as a kid hearing people singing in the field working. And there was blues on the radio. There were street singers around Memphis I would hear singing blues, playing guitar or harp.”

Being exposed to so much music, it was only natural for Musselwhite to start playing it himself; and, for a boy in the South, harmonicas practically grew on trees. “It was a common toy. In the South, just about everybody had a harmonica - you’d get them as a stocking stuffer.”

At the time, music seemed to be nothing more than a hobby for the future W.C. Handy Award-winner. “I never had a plan to be professional, that was the furthest thing in my mind,” Musselwhite said. “If you would’ve told me that I was going to be a professional, I would’ve laughed at you.”

Twenty-something albums later, Musselwhite is as formidable a musician as ever, and his Sanctuary band has some equally heavy hitters in it. The rhythm section features the stellar work of drummer Michael Jerome (Pleasure Club) and bassist Jared Nickerson (The The). The ace up Musselwhite’s sleeve, however, is guitarist Charlie Sexton.

The two Charlies met at a benefit concert arranged by Tom Waits. “Every now and then,” said Musslewhite, “you’ll meet somebody and it’s like you’re instant friends, almost like you know each other from sometime before. That’s kind of how it was with me and Charlie.” Sexton’s playing adds a hard edge to such numbers as “Homeless Child” and the instrumental “Shadow People.”

The cover of Ben Harper’s “Homeless Child” includes an appearance by the singer. After playing together on John Lee Hooker’s all-star album “The Best of Friends,” Musselwhite and Harper hit it off. “We just clicked in the studio so well,” Musselwhite revealed, “every time we’d see each other after that we say ‘Man, we gotta get back in the studio together’.”

The Blind Boys of Alabama add layers to the gospel-boogie of “Train to Nowhere.” “I had known their music before I ever met them,” said Musselwhite. “Then we met, became friends, and I toured with them. I thought they were just the perfect, natural pick for the feel of this album.”

In the end, however, all of the guest stars and talented musicians on Sanctuary are just icing on the cake. As revealed on the album’s haunting instrumental closer,

“Route 19,” Musselwhite proves he can captivate listeners with nothing more than a harmonica and a soulful blues tune.

Real World

Musselwhite Finds Sanctuary In Music Charlie Musselwhite Sanctuary

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