Charlie Musselwhite reaches deep for “The Well”
Charlie Musselwhite has done pretty well with the blues harp for a white kid from the Mississippi Hill Country. For about a half a century now, he been blowing the harp, and for almost that long he’s been regarded as one of the best.
He blows sweet and hard, and his blues work is virtually unchallenged. Now he’s taken another step and put his songwriting talents to work on an album with a very personal touch.
Musselwhite’s new CD, “The Well,’ is out today, and it remarks his return to Alligator Records, where he released three very fine albums in the early ’90s. It’s also the first album that Charlie has written by himself — except for one song, which he co-wrote.
It’s one of those songwriter’s albums, where the theme of the music is the songwriter himself – an autobiographical songbook — the kind that can easily go wrong if it’s either too shallow or too deep. But Charlie does it just right, exploring his past and the feelings behind
But this isn’t just music written to ease a troubled mind. It’s music that gently moves the soul along, swinging with feeling and the easy power of Charlie’s liquid harp runs. The music here a beautiful lesson in understatement.
The songs explore drinking and not drinking, personal pain and personal redemption. The liner notes flesh out his thoughts and offer some insight into each track. Probably the most poignant lyric, and one of the most rhythmic numbers, comes in a duet with Mavis Staples on “Sad and Beautiful World,” an ode to Musselwhite’s mother, who was killed at age 93 in their family home during a burglary.
This is a very fine album — not tough and screaming blues — but a kinder, gentler version that’s still filled with passion, intelligence and great music.