Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite – Tickets – 9:30 Club – Washington, DC – May 2nd, 2013

Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite

An evening of the blues

Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite

Thu 5/2/13

7:00 pm

Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite - (Set time: 8:45 PM)
Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite
“It all goes back to that John Lee Hooker session,” enthused Ben Harper. “Even
John Lee mentioned it, saying: ‘yeah, yeah, you guys… that’s good. Yeah,
yeah. You should stay with that. Do that.’”
Mississippi born Musselwhite is one of the most revered blues musicians in the
world. The harmonica master, also a respected singer and songwriter in his own
right, has won countless awards during his legendary career including induction
into the Blues Hall of Fame and collaborated with innumerable musical giants
of the past 50 years including Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Big Joe Williams,
Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson, Tom Waits, Eddie Vedder and the
aforementioned Hooker, just to name to name a few.
A fan of the harmonica virtuoso since childhood, Harper begged an introduction
to his idol at Australia’s Bryon Bay Blues Festival in 1996. Despite the
difference in age and background, the two hit it off immediately. The next
pivotal moment came at a 1997 session for John Lee Hooker where they locked
in musically, finding a common language that is seamless and remarkable.
Since then, the two musicians have worked together over the years, including
sessions for Solomon Burke’s Don’t Give Up on Me in 2002, on Musselwhite’s
2004 Grammy nominated album Sanctuary; the budding mates teaming on a
version of Harper’s “Homeless Child” and on Harper’s own album Both Sides of
the Gun in 2006. Each time Harper and Musselwhite played together it was
lightning in a bottle. The more they played, the louder Hooker’s words
In the grand but all-too-rare tradition of full-album artist collaborations, Get
Up! (Stax/Concord Music Group) featuring Ben Harper with Charlie Musselwhite
is a modern blues classic. The release, Harper's 12
studio album, surveys
gospel, roots, country and R&B; the marriage’s fluid chemistry
helping his multi-layered canvas expand as never before.
“Blues is a feeling,” Musselwhite points out. “It doesn’t have to be a certain
chord change. You could have 1-4-5 chord changes without that feeling and it
wouldn’t be the blues. B.B. King could sing “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and it
would be the blues.”Harper, Musselwhite and the band (guitarist Jason Mozersky, bassist Jesse
Ingalls, and drummer Jordan Richardson) play this intense and emotional songcycle with economical grit. Produced by Harper with co-production credits
going to engineer Sheldon Gomberg, the band members and Grammy winning
roots music producer Chris Goldsmith, Get Up! has a timeless feel, as if it had
been recorded 40 years ago in Chicago at Chess Studios just as easily as the
Carriage House in Los Angeles.
Opening with “Don’t Look Twice” Harper echoes Blind Lemon Jefferson,
vocalizing in a high octave falsetto. The swaggering electric blues of “I’m In
I’m Out and I’m Gone” comes next, the spirit of Muddy Waters no doubt smiling
from beyond the grave.
“To me it’s one of the crown jewels of the album,” Harper says of “I’m In I’m
Out And I’m Gone.” “I am just going to go on record and say it. I think it
contains one of the greatest harmonica solos in history. It’s straight ahead but
that’s elusive. It’s hard to do something straight ahead and make it sound
The fearsome “Blood Side Out” finds Harper portraying a man pushed past his
breaking point. Both the blunt guitar solo and the emotive harmonica capture
the frustration and manic energy of someone who’s been on the short end of
the stick too many times.
There’s plenty of defiance on Get Up! and also tender heartache. Case in point
the poignant acoustic guitar and harmonica duet of “You Found Another Lover
(I Lost Another Friend.)” Featuring poetic lyrics, the song’s three short verses
detail a painful break-up, vividly embodied in Musselwhite’s brilliant
accompaniment. “I’ve played with John Lee, Solomon Burke and Taj Mahal,
and one of my greatest musical moments is playing that song with Charlie,”
Harper says.
“I Don’t Believe a Word You Say,” is an angry blast of electric blues that could
be directed at anyone who hasn’t lived up to their promises, be it lover or
politician. “I could fit those words to political imagery and it would almost
work better than matters of the heart,” Harper points out.
A rollicking New Orleans piano highlights “She Got Kick”, an unambiguous
testimonial to the ultimate control of the opposite sex. Things go further out
on “We Can’t End This Way,” a heavenly synthesis of acoustic blues and gospel
written in three-quarter time. In lesser hands it would have been a mess of
good intentions but here the music is simply a celebration teeming with life.
Anchored by a pulsating groove, the band goes just as far in a different
direction on “Get Up!” the title track. “That song was written around a killer
baseline that Jessie had,” Harper explains. “It’s tempting to throw everything
but the kitchen sink on top of it, but we left it sparse. Powerful. ”The haunting battle hymn, “I Ride at Dawn”, dedicated to departed Navy SEAL
Nicholas P. Spehar, the brother of a friend, is a harrowing look at a modern day
warrior preparing for duty. “Real blues has depth and substance,” Musselwhite
points out. “It’s not just tunes that are tossed off. These songs are all from the
heart, more so than from the head. More than just music, they are reflections
of life.”
The album ends with the uplifting “All That Matters Now.” The song is a
reconciliation of sorts after the album’s emotional journey. “I was in the
production booth, in total producer mode trying to figure out where to go
next,” recalls Harper. “And I hear Charlie and Jason messing around in the
studio with this deep groove. I heard it and told my engineer to roll tape. Don’t
go fix the mic, just roll tape. There’s people talking and walking through the
room, but it doesn’t matter.”
Recorded down and dirty, fast and live, Get Up! is an old school creation.
This kind of musical chemistry demanded the approach. But its attitude, brash,
assertive, disarming and vulnerable, is defiantly modern. This is a
record Harper has always aspired to make but knew required the essential life experience. Get Up! proves it's been time well spent.
Venue Information:
9:30 Club
815 V St. NW
Washington, DC, 20001