Delta Hardware

Charlie Musselwhite, 2006

Shot through with attitude, the songs on Delta Hardware feel rough-hewn and tough, just as they should for a guy "born in Mississippi [and] raised up in Tennessee". Charlie cuts loose a good time in Clarksdale, pipes up for the downtrodden, and gives a lover the ol' heave-ho. This is raw, passionate music from a howlin' blues legend who's still invigorated by a youthful spirit.

It's Charlie's mix of wild country abandon seasoned by years of playing urban electric blues in Chicago that spurs the likes of Ben Harper, Tom Waits and Gov't Mule to welcome Musselwhite onto their stages and records. That same brash, blues/rock rebel vibe was Dan Aykroyd's inspiration for his Elwood Blues persona, and it's what has won Musselwhite a pile of blues awards and earned the admiration and respect of his own heroes: Howlin' Wolf, John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters ? John Lee was even the best man at Charlie's wedding.

Pulled, like the albums of R. L. Burnside and the North Mississippi Allstars, out of the storied Mississippi Delta and Hill Country, Delta Hardware is a mixture of songs written over the past few years and ideas fleshed out in the studio, and includes a new twist on the longtime live staple, Clarksdale Boogie. True to the blues as an expression of a range of honest emotions and stories, Delta Hardware ranges from upbeat jewels like the party track Church Is Out to more socially conscious songs like Black Water and The Invisible Ones. With the latter two tracks, inspired by the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, Charlie paints a stark, honest tribute to those suffering in and around New Orleans and in his home state: "Old black water lappin' at your back door/Hello America, better get ready for more/Trouble, trouble all around here/ just too tired to shed one tear/ Black Water/ It's a sign of our times."

"Things just seem to be falling apart," Musselwhite says. "And I think people are waking up to that. I think people are starting to see that there's something really rotten going on." Admittedly, the political arena is an odd and uncomfortable arena for him to step into. "I don't want to be offensive to anybody. I respect everybody and their opinion, and I hope they respect mine."

Backed by his touring band, Musselwhite, now based in Sonoma County, California, lends his guitar skills to one track on Delta Hardware and otherwise just goes stompin, blowin' and shouting his way through the album's 10 tracks. The album walks the line between rock and electric country blues, sometimes playing it straight, sometimes taking new turns. On Clarksdale Boogie, he offers up a virtual mantra for his life behind his first-ever use of a drum and bass loop: "Meet me where they play good blues." The crowd noise in this track is sampled from a night at Red's juke joint in Clarksdale.

With Delta Hardware, Musselwhite says simply, "I'm keepin' it real. For the listener, I hope it's like a journey, I hope each tune takes 'em to another little place, and I hope at the end they're glad they went."

Reviews

  • Delta Hardware - Nominated for 2007 Blues Music Award Charlie Musselwhite uses familiar blues devices in unfamiliar ways on Delta Hardware. He reaches back to his roots for inspiration, but this is no nostalgia record....The traditional elements in these songs could have led to pleasant, fun, but obvious music. Here, it feels fresh and vital. This is still the blues, but not in all the obvious ways. “Church is Out,” nominated for Song of the Year, is a fabulous opening sermon in the newest chapter of the Charlie Musselwhite ministry. It combines a massive guitar riff with an indifferent vocal evoking “Sultans of Swing”-era Mark Knopfler. That dominating riff rings large enough and loud enough to make Keith Richards jealous....The masterwork of Delta Hardware is the shadowy "Black Water." This track is an example of the power that is generated when music and lyric blend perfectly. The amplified effects on Musselwhite's mournful harp make it sound like it was recorded underwater. The murky sound of Chris 'Kid' Andersen's skillful touch adds another layer to the haunting, mysterious atmosphere. Musselwhite's laid back vocal allows his harp duel with Andersen's guitar to provide the emotional center to these words of apocalyptic warning. Delta Hardware is a lean, muscular record without filler — ten songs, 40 minutes...This is a basic harmonica, guitar, bass, drum configuration but producer Chris Goldsmith assists the players in finding great tones and effects for the instruments. In addition to the sonic variety in the instrumental texture, Musselwhite's vocal attack is also varied, running the gamut between gritty and detached. The performances and production achieve a level of excellence rarely heard these days. DJ Radiohead on the BMA Award 2007 Nominations (USA)
  • All straight, natch'l blues Musselwhite and band rock, but they rock not like rockers but like blues-soaked veterans of lowdown barroom and sweat-stained dancehall... If you haven't heard the blues served Musselwhite style, Delta Hardware is where to go for your first helping. I expect that you'll be back for more. Rambles (USA)
  • The F&M Playlist "Church Is Out" From his latest album Delta Hardware, this is stomping R&B from surely the best blues harmonica player in the business. The angry Black Water (his take on Katrina and New Orleans) sounds pretty good, too. The Guardian (UK)
  • Plumb full of harder rockin’ Blues One of the world’s greatest living Blues harp players has just released his 35th album. Delta Hardware will be little surprise to the legions of fans who firmly support this great artist. Those who are familiar with the 1967 release of “Stand Back” will recognize the harder edge on this one. This release is plumb full of harder rockin’ Blues. The songs deal with everyday challenges as well as the joys of life. ...With “Hardware” Musselwhite returns to a style that has always been a hit with many. This is a raw and passionate display of Delta Blues from a man who still has a youthful spirit despite his many years touring and performing. The upbeat party track, “Church is Out” is tempered with the Hurricane Katrina inspired “Black Water” and “The Invisible Ones”. It’s about as political but it’s honest, from the heart, music. Ever the gentleman Charlie says “I don't want to be offensive to anybody. I respect everyone and their opinions, and I hope they respect mine.” Blues News (USA)
  • His Very Best Yet Mr. Charlie Musselwhite has been one of my favorite blues harmonica player for over 20 years now and his new cd, "Delta Hardware", is possibly his VERY BEST yet. In fact, "Delta Hardware" is the best cd from Charlie since "Ace of Harps" that he did on Alligator Records many years back. Charlie Musselwhite has gotten back to his very deepest roots on this new cd, and his tone on the harp is his best yet. In the past few years Charlie has gotten into latin rythms etc and I am so glad to see him back playing the soulfull blues music that he excels at. Charlie has got that fat/rich tone on the harp this time around that he had on "Ace of Harps", but EVEN better, it just wants to explode. He is a musician that is not content relying on past deeds, he is improving and taking his playing to the next level! BluzHarp
  • Some of the best blues tracks of the year A great blues album by a classic blues veteran... The playing is tight and crisp, and radical politics accompanied by awesome solos. Uh, hell yeah. Pop Matters
  • An outstanding addition to his illustrious career Charlie Musselwhite is a unique artist who continues to broaden his horizons with each new offering. "Delta Hardware" is a prime example, and well worth adding to your collection! Bluesletter (USA)
  • A raw and rugged return to basics If there are any blues fans who don't consider Charlie Musselwhite deserving of a spot in the pantheon of great blues harmonica players, Delta Hardware will serve as strong evidence that they should reconsider. Musselwhite's latest release, his second for Real World, is a raw and rugged return to basics, as he serves up ten powerful tracks of stripped-down blues and boogie.... Hard as it may be to believe, Charlie Musselwhite's been putting out some great blues for 40 years (and over 30 albums) and is continuing to raise the bar with each release. Blues Bytes (USA)
  • Full of dramatic and genuine songs This CD is full of dramatic and genuine songs. That is because Musselwhite presents music with a feeling, which is music from the heart. It is a treat to go his varied and and enjoyable musical journey, in which Charlie incorporates his musical lifetime experiences from the Mississippi Delta to Chicago urban blues and beyond. Consider taking this real, musical journey yourself. You will be glad you did. Blues News (New Zealand)
  • It's a winner! A strong showing from this strong performer. With seven original tunes, great guitar from Musselwhite himself, and the masterful harp that harp fans crave, it's a winner. Elmore (USA)
  • A highly enjoyable blaster! A highly enjoyable, somewhat thought provoking, blaster! Put it on the essential list I think! Blues in the South (USA)
  • Full of dramatic and genuine songs This CD is full of dramatic and genuine songs. That is because Musselwhite presents music with a feeling, which is music from the heart. It is a treat to go on his varied and enjoyable musical journey, in which Charlie incorporates his musical lifetime experiences from the Mississippi Delta to Chicago urban blues and beyond. Consider taking this real, musical journey yourself. You will be glad you did. Blues Art (USA)
  • Shot through with attitude, rough-hewn and tough Shot through with attitude, the songs on Delta Hardware feel rough-hewn and tough, just as they should for a guy that "born in Mississippi (and) raised in Tennessee." This is raw, passionate music music from a howlin' blues legend who's still invigorated by a youthful spirit. allrecordlabels.com (USA)
  • As good as it gets... Highly recommended Delta Hardware is played tight, flawlessly and from the heart.... Musselwhite's playing is stronger and more emotionally charged than ever. He is in good voice, his harp work is exceptional and the band is tight... Straight-ahead, hard-drivin' and as good as it gets. This one comes highly recommended. Billtown Blue Notes (USA)
  • A feast for Blues purists A feast for Blues purists "Delta Hardware" is no fuss blue collar Blues by a legend of Electric Blues Harmonica.... There's no pretense to "Delta Hardware" - just raw, primal boogie, shuffle & a little slow Blues from the real thing. www.bluescritic.com
  • Blues fans have something to celebrate First off blues fans have something to celebrate in a damn fine, full-on Memphis Charlie Blues album... There is an edginess that makes Charlie, for his veteran years, one "in touch" dude.... "Delta Hardware" has that big solid footprint, and in the future its impact will be felt. Blues Matters
  • CD of the Week You know when Real World Records puts out any album, it's going to be good. Of course, when they hit a genre squarely on the head, like they do here with blues, then you know it's going to be impressive. And this is the best of both worlds, reaching back to the roots of blues and yet giving it a modern tweak (but not tweaking so much that anything, you know, falls off). It's excellent. Check out "Clarksdale Boogie" and "Church is Out" if you want to grab some samples. Needcoffee.com
  • Raw, Passionate Music from a Howlin' Blues Legend It's Charlie's mix of wild country abandon seasoned by years of playing urban electric blues in Chicago that spurs the likes of Ben Harper, Tom Waits and Gov't Mule to welcome Musselwhite onto their stages and records. That same brash, blues/rock rebel vibe was Dan Aykroyd's inspiration for his Elwood Blues persona, and it's what has won Musselwhite a pile of blues awards and earned the admiration and respect of his own heroes: Howlin' Wolf, John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters. John Lee was even the best man at Charlie's wedding. Weekly Blues News (USA)
  • Live at The Jazz Cafe There were times when this old venue felt like a southside Chicago blues club... this was blues to move to and and nobody left Parkway without a grin. Camden New Journal (UK)
  • Charlie Musselwhite just may be the greatest blues harmonica player of our time Charlie Musselwhite just may be the greatest blues harmonica player of our time. Most likely, you're familiar with his signature style of powerful riffage and you don't even know it. Musselwhite's responsible for the mouth harp intro to INXS's Suicide Blonde. But those who know the blues know Musselwhite best; even though he's a modern hybrid of electric country rock and hardcore Delta traditionalism (he is, after all, reputed to be the inspiration for Dan Akroyd's Elwood Blues persona), Musselwhite is a genuine bluesman to the core. His new album, Delta Hardware, proves he's mastered the art of combining sharp, modern elements with an old, deep-rooted shuffle. This is a man as comfortable on stage with Gov't Mule as he is on an old creaky porch. Santa Fe Reporter (USA)
  • ...just doing his job and doing it well. The blues has been Musselwhite's job since the 1960s. Thirty-nine years after his debut album, the singer/ songwriter/harmonica player still puts in the hours and the effort. Eschewing the illustrious guests of 2004's "Sanctuary," Musselwhite sticks with his own band and, mostly, his own songs. (The exceptions are two quintessential Little Walter harmonica blow-outs and a very clever Billy Boy Arnold cut called "Gone Too Long.") Recent events give post-Katrina tunes "Black Water" and "Invisible Ones" their lamentable immediacy, brought home by Musselwhite's long, lonesome harp riffs. Opener "Church Is Out" is a hard-hitting, irreverent rock'n'roll tune, while "Town to Town" finds him trying on his infrequently played electric guitar. It's the story of a hard-luck, hard-working fellow that, at least metaphorically, could be about the man singing the song, just doing his job and doing it well. Billboard (USA)
  • A great, no-nonsense, emotional blues album Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young are not the only musicians to be concerned at the current state of America. Charlie Musselwhite is one of the country's great blues veterans, an inspired harmonica player who first started recording in the 1960s, and has worked with everyone from John Lee Hooker to Tom Waits, Ben Harper and the Mississippi Allstars. His new solo album is notable for its powerful simplicity and a rare sense of quiet anger, with two songs inspired by the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. Black Water is a brooding, half-spoken piece with the some fine, drifting harmonica work and the warning that the suffering is "a sign of our times", while Invisible Ones uses a slinky riff as the backing for a thoughtful lament for the forgotten underclass. Then, just for contrast, he throws in a rousing R&B guitar rocker, Church Is Out, to show off his more driving harmonica style. This is a great, no-nonsense, emotional blues album. The Guardian (UK)
  • The second coming of Led Zepplin with Tom Waits on vocals! (Delta Hardware) is his hardest-rocking disc in a career that spans more than 30 albums and not a little rocking. This isn't just one of the best blues albums of the year; it is one of the best of any genre. Watch out Green Day. Charlie's back in town. It sounds like the second coming of Led Zepplin with Tom Waits on vocals. The Mercury News (USA)
  • Candidate for blues record of the year. Delta Hardware is the kind of record only a veteran could make, full of backbone, spit and vinegar; it is an early candidate for blues record of the year. All Music Guide
  • Lean, mean, dusky Delta blues As authentic as the lines on his forehead and his droopy eyes, veteran bluesman Charlie Musselwhite gets better with age... Lean, mean, and just muddy enough to conjure images of the band churning out these dark, dusky Delta blues on a porch in the midst of a sweltering summer's night. The no-frills approach is perfect for Musselwhite's otherworldly harp playing to express his years and miles on the endless blues highway. Amazon.com
  • Low down, dirty, greasy, in the alley blues From the very first note of track one "Church Is Out", you know there is going to be some low down, dirty, greasy, in the alley blues played here and that's exactly what you hear through the entire set. The band finds a groove, stays in the pocket and doesn't come out until the end of the last track.... These are definitely modern blues here with obvious nods to the old school, but this album takes on a style all its own. There is enough here for both the modern blues lover and the traditionalist. SW Blues (USA)
  • Music from the heart Delta Hardware demonstrates the style, inspiration and clearly communicated truth in the music of this legendary troubadour. Extraordinary music is loaded with feeling and Delta Hardware is a full house. Blues Radar (USA)