Thursday, January 27, 2005

Charlie Musslewhite - Deluxe Edition (Alligator, 2005)

Harmonica player, guitarist and vocalist Charlie Musslewhite has had a long and successful career ever since he blew out of Memphis in the early 1960's. The 1990's saw an even bigger resurgence in his career - free from booze and ready for a fresh start, he signed to Alligator Records for a three disc contract which culminated in one of his finest albums In My Time. This best of draws heavily from that album and cherry picks some of the best tunes from the two others to present a cohesive picture of a blues musician at the peak of his game.

One of the things that made In My Time such an interesting album was the variety of material on it. While Musslewhite is mostly known as a crack blues harp player, on this album he's playing some deep delta style guitar as well, and backed by the Five Blind Boys of Alabama on some soulful gospel like the haunting "Bedside of a Neighbor." The blues boogie is never that far away however and Musslewhite shows his extraordinary harmonica ability and laid-back soulful vocals on cookers like "Lotsa Poppa" and "38 Special." The disc ends with a fascinating lo-fi home recording of Musslewhite with legendary Memphis bluesman Will Shade. It doesn't really fit in with the rest of the music, but as a curio it's very interesting. Now if they can uncover some of Musslewhite's work with the idiosyncratic nine string guitarist Big Joe Williams, that would be extremely cool.

If you are a fan of the modern blues, this is well worth your while. Musslewhite has released a string of excellent music lately and this is where he really started to find his groove. Either this disc or In My Time are highly recommended as prime examples of his art.

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