Ever since Charlie Musselwhite recorded Stand Back! Here Comes Charlie Musselwhite's South Side Band in 1967, he has seemed to make a conscious effort to stay as close to the cutting edge of blues music as possible. He has also repeatedly demonstrated his flexibility and ability to inject his distinctive harp sound into a variety of blues styles, as well as other styles of music that are not necessary part of the general blues genre. One only has to go back to his 1999 release Continental Drifter to hear his unique compositions blending blues with Latin rhythms to know that Charlie loves to experiment with a variety of musical forms.
Musselwhite's latest recording, One Night In America, demonstrates Charlie's blues harp magic in yet another variation on blues. From my first listen to One Night In America, it was apparent that Musselwhite was now choosing to venture into more of a Memphis influenced blues sound, combining elements of rhythm and blues, country, bluegrass and blues into this new recording. The result is another new dimension to Musselwhite's already versatile sound and a recording that has the ability to capture yet another segment of the music buying public.
On One Night In America, Musselwhite employs a band made up of some well know names and interesting combinations including former Saturday Night Live bandleader, G.E. Smith, on guitar, along with Per Hanson and Michael Jerome (drums), Peter Re (organ), T-Bone Wolk (bass) and Christine Ohlman (vocals). The CD also includes guest appearances by Robben Ford (guitar), country crossover artist Marty Stuart (guitar & mandolin) and Kelly Willis (vocals).
For blues fans who also enjoy the bluesier elements of country, the inclusion of Marty Stuart is most apparent on three songs; "Cold Grey Light of Dawn," "In A Town This Size" and "Rank Strangers To Me." The vocal assistance provided by Kelly Willis on "In a Town This Size" and "Rank Strangers To Me," definitely adds to this feel. The CD even includes a Johnny Cash tune, "Big River." In the liner notes, Charlie reminisces about hearing Cash singing on the radio when he was growing up in Memphis and how his songs reflect various slices of life, just like the blues.
Other songs of interest on the CD are the opener "Trail of Tears," a song that I cannot get out of my head since I heard it the first time; "Blues Overtook Me," a Musselwhite autobiographical original that discusses Charlie's introduction (or is it abduction) to the blues; and "One Time One Night," an excellent cover of the song by David Hidalgo and Louie Perez of Los Lobos. Musselwhite fans will also enjoy the other originals spread through the 12 song CD, including "In Your Darkest Hour," "Ain't It Time" and "I'll Meet You Over There." One Night In America closes with a cover of Jimmy Reed's classic, "Ain't That Lovin' You Baby," that Charlie recalls hearing many times on Memphis jukeboxes, along with dancing with his girlfriend at a Jimmy Reed live show.
Charlie Musselwhite is my personal favorite harp player, along with being an exceptionally kind and gracious human being. One Night In America is another in a long line of excellent recordings my Charlie Musselwhite and one that anybody would enjoy adding to their collection. For more information about this blues "superstar" or to learn more about the CD visit Charlie's website www.charlie-musslewhite.com or the Telarc Records website at www.telarc.com.
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