Thu, 17 September 20
Released 01 May 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 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.”
Released 12 October 2003
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