Delta Hardware

Charlie Musselwhite

Released 02 May 2006

  1. Church Is Out
  2. One Of These Mornings
  3. Sundown
  4. Black Water
  5. Clarksdale Boogie
  6. Just A Feeling
  7. Gone Too Long
  8. Invisible Ones
  9. Town To Town
  10. Blues For Yesterday

Liner notes

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 actor 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 among them. 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 ten 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.”

Listen

Reviews

  • 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 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)

Further Listening

  • Sanctuary

    Charlie Musselwhite

    Released 13 October 2003

    On this musical excursion, American blues legend Charlie Musselwhite explores the themes that have always charged the potency of the blues: loneliness, despair, evil, and dying. He casts a steady light on these shadowy topics, re-connecting the blues idiom to the haunting emotions that resonated so powerfully in its earliest incarnations.
  • Bought For A Dollar, Sold For A Dime

    Little Axe

    Released 01 June 2010

    A melting pot of addictive rhythms, soulful vocals, pinches of dub and funk, reggae and gospel and oh-so-subtle samples and innovative electronics. ‘Bought For A Dollar Sold For A Dime’ is underpinned by Skip McDonald's shimmering blues guitar licks, conjuring a space where the dirt roads of the Deep South meet the shiny lanes of the Information Superhighway.

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