One Track Mind: Charlie Musselwhite "Church Is Out" (2007)

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by Pico

Wow, I nearly missed this one. For years now, I’ve been a fan of the man from Memphis for his undiluted brand of deeply rooted electric blues and for his harmonica that currently has no peer with the recent passing of Carey Bell. After Musselwhite’s highly acclaimed Sanctuary from 2004 was somehow not connecting with me, I took a pass on last year’s Delta Hardware. That is, until I read how Charlie cleaned up at last month’s Blues Music Awards and prior to that, some of the high praise heaped upon it. That was just enough to push me to give this ol’ veteran of the blues another try.

From the opening notes of that first song, called “Church Is Out,” I was sold.

Starting with Chris “Kid” Andersen’s simple, Stones-ey opening riff, the song grabs the listener and then before it sounds like too much rock and not enough blues, Musselwhite enters the scene by announcing that he was “born in Mississippi and raised in Tennessee.” His drawling vocal delivery sounds like a guy who’s been around the block a few times and when he gives advice, like “you never wanna cross or mess with a man like me,” you’d better Stand Back.

Written by him as a sort of autobiographical braggadocio, Musselwhite backs up his claims of prowess with his trademark Delta-drenched harp playing in the instrumental break. The song’s title is like a country blues twist on the ever-present hip-hop term “school is out” and reminds us of that the blues, and later, rock, was built on a foundation of church hymms and gospel music.

Some solid rhythm support from bass player Randy Bermudes and drummer June Core keeps that riff from getting old and the lyrics flow so naturally, it’s surprising it took someone so long to write such a just-right blues tune. At the age of sixty-three, Musselwhite sounds like he’s just hitting his stride.

It’s more amazing that the rest of the album that follows reveals no falloff in quality. Little wonder, then, that Musselwhite walked off with the BMA awards for “Album Of The Year” and “Traditional Blues Album Of The Year” in May.

And, as it turns out, “Church Is Out” was awarded BMA’s “Song Of The Year.” Just one listen to it and anyone woud find it hard to disagree with the accolades.

“Jump and shout…’cos church is out!”

Listen: Charlie Musselwhite “Church Is Out”

“One Track Mind” is a more-or-less weekly drool over a single song selected on a whim and a short thesis on why you should be drooling over it, too.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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