Charlie Musselwhite – In My Time (1993)

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Charlie Musselwhite, who once played with Muddy Waters, has just gotten better in his absence.

A fine example is this Grammy-nominated release, which includes a deft cover of Sleepy John Estes’ fine “Brownsville Blues.” It’s a career highpoint, and (funny thing) Musselwhite hasn’t even put harmonica to mouth yet at that point. (The opener, “Stingaree,” actually features on Musselwhite on guitar.)

He remains, as a vocalist and a harp player, a voice from another place. And that echoing call only grows more resonant as the forefathers he so strongly recalls have faltered and passed on.

Take Musselwhite’s reading of Roosevelt Sykes’ “Casual Friend.” It’s heartfelt, and deeply old school — without even a whiff of modern rock ‘n’ roll pretensions. Musselwhite is too gritty, too real, for that. You can almost see this guy playing among the railroad crusties, with a brown paper-bagged whiskey nearby.

Angular, emotional and quite satisfying, Musselwhite offers an appropriately scorching take on Sonny Boy Williamson’s “The Big Boat,” then gets funky on “Movin’ and Groovin'” (embedded below) when his regular touring group (including guitarist Andrew “Junior Boy” Jones, bassist Felton Crews and drummer Tommy Hill) stops in.

Finally, we have the gospel-tinged majesty of Musselwhite’s final tune, “Bedside of a Neighbor” — the second of two with the Blind Boys of Alabama. As a closer, it is flat-out wonderful, a two-sided transcendental blues that finds Biblical beauty in a falling beer-bottle slide.

In the end, there is a little bit of all the roots music Musselwhite had absorbed over his first 50 years, something that simultaneously underscores and debunks the album title.

Charlie Musselwhite, see, is for all time.

 

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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