February 26th 2020
About the Artist
Charlie Musselwhite’s journey through the blues was from his birth in Mississippi to Memphis, Chicago and California. Arriving in Chicago in the early sixties, he was just in time for the epochal blues revival. In 1966 at the age of 22 he recorded the landmark Stand Back! to rave reviews. A precipitous relocation to San Francisco in 1967, where his album was being played on underground radio, found him welcomed into the counterculture scene around the Fillmore West as an authentic purveyor of the real deal blues.
Fifty years of nonstop touring, performing and recording have reaped huge rewards. Charlie Musselwhite is living proof that great music only gets better with age. This man cut his (musical) teeth alongside Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf and everyone on the South side of Chicago in the early 1960’s. Thank your lucky stars that he is still with us telling the truth with a voice and harp tone like no other.
More than 20 albums later he is at the top of his game, a revered elder statesman of the blues nowhere near ready to hang up his harps, his depth of expression as a singer and an instrumentalist unexcelled and only growing deeper.
Charlie has been collaborating with the world’s finest Artists for many years, including Ben Harper, Cyndi Lauper, Eddie Vedder, Tom Waits, Bonnie Raitt, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Gov’t Mule, INXS, Mickey Hart and Japan’s Kodo Drummers, George Thorogood, Eliades Ochoa, Cat Stevens and personal friend and best man at his wedding John Lee Hooker.
Musselwhite, more than any other harmonica player of his generation, can rightfully lay claim to inheriting the mantle of many of the great harp players that came before him with music as dark as Mississippi mud and as uplifting as the blue skies of California. In an era when the term legendary gets applied to auto-tuned pop stars, this singular blues harp player, singer, songwriter and guitarist has earned and deserves to be honored as a true master of American classic vernacular music.
Charlie’s riveting Sonoma County show brought his unstoppable, hard hitting, tone heavy sound to the audience who couldn’t get enough. Luckily someone had turned on the tape and Charlie knew just what to do – he took the tapes down to Clarksdale MS and delivered them into the capable mixing and mastering hands of Gary Vincent who in collaboration with Charlie, brought Mississippi mud to this exceptional live recording.
I AIN’T LYIN’ is all Charlie. The cd is a group of painstakingly crafted original tunes penned by the hand of this Mississippi master that resonate with the land of Mississippi itself. Charlie’s music rises from the river, crosses the levy, dances through the streets and cuts straight to the heart of what it is to be alive.
Fifty years of nonstop touring, performing and recording have reaped huge rewards. Charlie Musselwhite is living proof that great music only gets better with age. This man cut his (musical) teeth alongside Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf and everyone on the south side of Chicago in the early 1960’s – thank your lucky stars he is still with us telling the truth with a voice and harp tone like no other.
Charlie Musselwhite may be the only musician to get a huge ovation just for opening his briefcase. Fans know that’s where he keeps his harmonicas and they’re about to hear one of the true masters work his magic on the humble instrument.
Musselwhite is, and always will be, a bluesman of the highest order. But he’s taken blues harp from the clubs on the Southside of Chicago (where “Memphis Charlie” and Mike Bloomfield backed Big Joe Williams) to places it’s never been before, both musically and physically. He’s soloed to “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” with Cyndi Lauper on Good Morning America; wailed on “Echo Bells” with Japan’s Kodo drummers (produced by the Grateful Dead’s Mickey Hart); and mixed blues with Cuban son legend Eliades Ochoa, each playing on the other’s album. He’s jammed on stage with Mick Jagger and recorded with such diverse artists as INXS, Tom Waits, bluegrass fiddler Vassar Clements, gospel Blind Boys of Alabama, and even Cat Stevens. And shortly before winning the Grammy for Best Blues Album for their collaboration Get Up!, he and Ben Harper played at the White House for President Obama and the First Lady, in a salute to Memphis soul. Charlie explains, “It’s fun and interesting and challenging to me to get to play in a new setting and do tunes that are different than the usual IIV-V and 12 bars.”
“Meeting Charlie was huge to me,” said Ben Harper in reference to the GET UP project. “Knowing his music but also his commitment to the blues and everything he brought to that. When you get the call to sit at the table with kings, you better have a well-pressed suit. I knew that time would come, so I kept setting material aside. But Charlie Musselwhite is the north star of this record. We were following him. The songs really came to life around Charlie and his sensibilities. We revolved around him and his harp; you can hear that.”
After Charlie was a member of Hot Tuna’s 2011 “blues tour,” leader/guitarist Jorma Kaukonen hit the nail on the head. “We just had a great time,” he smiled. “I mean, talk about the real shit – then there’s Charlie Musselwhite. When Charlie tells stories about the blues guys it’s because he knew them and played with them. And we know that harp players can be dangerous in the musical sensibility department, but not Charlie. He’s just the best. And he’s such a cool guy. It was one of those things that just felt so perfect.”
As Charlie often says, “The blues is your buddy in good times and your comforter in bad times. It empowers you to keep going. It is secular spiritual music, the gospel blues. It’s music from the heart instead of the head.” - Dan Forte, ASCAP/Deems Taylor Award winner for excellence in music journalism