Blues legend Charlie Musselwhite decided to put together a recording that honored many of the songs that have left an abiding impression upon him over the past fifty years, while also adding added in a few classy originals of his own. At least half of the tunes have only a tenuous link with the blues, and many would seem to fit more easily into the country genre. But when you're dealing with roots music with this kind of dignity, boundary lines soon evaporate and become meaningless.
This may be the most listener-friendly recording Charlie has ever done, and I must confess to developing a love affair with it. Charlie's stark and dusky voice has never sounded more convincing, and the quality of the material is so strong that actually pinpointing which of the twelve tracks are particular standouts becomes a very tricky proposition.
Country chanteuse Kelly Willis adds some delicately evocative harmony on "In A Town This Size" and "Rank Strangers To Me", abetted by mandolinist Marty Stuart and G.E. Smith (of Saturday Night Live fame). Robben Ford also helps out on a couple tracks, but, in the main, this is a sparse, almost acoustic recording. "Cold Grey Light of Dawn" more than lives up to its title, a fifties-sounding honky tonker that a Hank Williams or a Merle Haggard might have written, yet it was actually composed by r&b legend Ivory Joe Hunter.
A Johnny Cash tune can always be slotted into any salute to American music, and "Big River" perfectly hits the mark. Only his harmonica and a bass line from T-Bone Wolk accompany Musselwhite on "In Your Darkest Hour"--and the effect is absolutely chilling. The delights and charms continue without abatement, including a superb take on Jimmy Reed's "Ain't That Loving You Baby", as well as Charlie's own autobiographical "Blues Overtook Me".
The CD title was taken from a lyric in the song "One Time One Night", originally done by Los Lobos. It's one heckuva of a song and practically summarizes the entire tenor of this CD. It fits here just like a glove on a hand.
Take my word folks, and make a beeline for 'One Night in America'. You'll be doing yourselves a honey of a treat.
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