Charlie Musselwhite – I Ain’t Lyin’ | Album Review

charliemusselwhitecdCharlie Musselwhite – I Ain’t Lyin’

Henrietta Records  – 2015

11 tracks: 59 minutes 

Charlie Musselwhite shows little sign of slowing down.  At 72 the veteran harp player has issued another live set to complement 2013’s “Juke Joint Chapel”, with just two overlaps between these two live sets, one of which is “Cristo Redentor” which really has to feature in a live Musselwhite set!  The band remains Matt Stubbs on guitar and June Core on drums with a new bassist in Steve Froberg. This one was recorded in Sonoma, CA and in Clarksdale, MS and it’s a very good set indeed with almost entirely Charlie’s own compositions.  Charlie is in excellent voice throughout and his harp playing seems ageless.

The set opens with “Good Blues Tonight” which acts as an invitation to the show: “Come on in, we got good blues tonight.  Let down your hair, Mama, I’ll turn down the light”. A second, unedited version closes the CD.  The only cover apart from “Cristo Redentor” is Elmore James’ “Done Somebody Wrong” and its familiar stop/start rhythm is infectious as Matt takes a great solo.  The mid-tempo groove of “Long Lanky Mama” finds Charlie at the top of his game, ranging far and wide on his harp and Matt getting some more solo space, this time in rocking mode.  “Always Been Your Friend” drops the pace as Charlie half speaks, half sings the lyrics around his moaning harp and some really downhome accompaniment from the band.  “If I Should Have Bad Luck” is a classic blues title if ever you heard one and it features June’s great shuffle drums and some aggressive harp from Charlie as well as the first appearance of the title of the album from Charlie’s lips!  “My Kinda Gal” clocks in at over seven minutes and is played at a frantic pace with which Charlie easily keeps up on harp – a tour de force!

“Blues, Why Do You Worry Me?” appeared on “Juke Joint Chapel” but it’s well worth a re-run as the band nails the shuffle rhythm as Charlie intones a classic set of blues lyrics: “Blues, why do you worry me?  Why do you stay so long? You came to me yesterday; you stayed the whole night long”.  Lots of wailing harp here, as there is on “300 Miles To Go” which is another highlight with the band kicking up a Muddy Waters style rhythm and Charlie conjuring up some very high notes.  “Long Leg Woman” is another uptempo piece which inevitably brings Freddie King’s tune of a similar name to mind and there is definitely some Texas blues in Matt’s playing here, Charlie again producing some dazzling harp runs.  Charlie adopted jazz pianist Duke Pearson’s “Cristo Redentor” some years ago and it has become his theme song; this version is as good as any with the emotional content of his and the band’s playing there for all to hear – quite superb!

Interestingly there is little or no audience noise on this album so it would be easy to believe that it is a studio recording if one did not read the sleevenotes.  Obviously every blues fan knows Charlie Musselwhite but this excellent album might just draw in a few new fans to his work.  For the rest of us we can mark this one as another solid CM release.

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