Much has already been written about the excellent new album Get Up! from Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite. But enough good cannot be said, so I'm gonna chime in too, since I'm listening to it right now, tripping out at how damn good it is.
Harper and Musselwhite met
through John Lee Hooker, and that's about as legit as anyone can get.
Both were impressed with each other, a friendship was formed, and after a
decade or so of talking about it, this album has clearly cemented their
From the opening track, "Don't Look Twice" to the
last tremble of "All That Matters Now", you feel as if you've invited
to join Ben and Charlie right next to them on the front porch as they
play the day away. The sun shines, turns to dark clouds, pours down
rain, and the skies clear again ... on almost every song. The REAL
Blues, from two REAL masters of their craft.
This thing is real
serious, even when it's fun, because these cats straight MEAN it. "I'm
In I'm Out And I'm Gone" is swampy, old school blues that builds to a
sweaty in the bar, shaking your hair back and forth, music elation
crescendo, the kind that leaves you feeling dirty - in a good way. It
sounds like you're there in the room with them, but you time traveled
back to THE DAY to be there listening. Musselwhite really shines on his
solo here, oozing the wisdom of decades, and Harper shows that all that
listening and schooling has rubbed off on him. Harper sings, You gotta answer to somebody ... but it's evident that these two really only need to answer to themselves at this stage of the game.
Can't End This Way" is lyrically kind of sad and poignant, but the
upbeat hand claps, gorgeous lady back-up voices, and the feeling that
there is hope after all permeates the entire gospel-soaked song, helping
to melt those blues away. Harper's slide guitar solo is soso good too,
that you know you'll be fine, even if just because you heard that. Love
a bit of a switcheroo on "I Don't Believe A Word You Say" as this one
is hard ROCKING, and feels more like Harper rubbing off on Musselwhite
this time. They're bridging ages, they're bridging genres ... all the
while making both sound passionately fresh. The lyrics on this one are
repetitive (pretty much just I don't believe a word you say
...) but when there's playing going on that's this good, the point is
made, no question. Heavy.
Harper's regular band, The Relentless 7,
(Jason Mozersky, Jordan Richardson, and Jesse Ingalls) backs them up the
whole way, as tightly as can be. "You Found Another Lover (I Lost
Another Friend)" is truly the blues, quietly accepting the painful
truth, but showing that even pain can be pretty. It brings it all down a
sonic notch here, but you kind of need it, just like in life sometimes.
to Navy Seal, Nicholas P. Spehar, "I Ride At Dawn" is both a history
lesson and a tale of anti-war disillusionment, met with chin up defiant
ferocity. Harper's jangly spaghetti western guitar strings meet
Musselwhite's late-night/early morning by the campfire harp to tell the
world just what exactly is what. Damn straight and tough. Guys will love
this song. So will film music supervisors, as the music is so highly
visual. And it's smart, its lyrics even containing a reference to
Sheberghan - Afghanistan. Badasses.
"Blood Side Out" is back to
rocking out hard, amped up and yelling, while the title track, "Get Up!"
brings you back to the sweaty blues bar, nodding and pounding your fist
on the table in agreement.
There is a 50's Bop rock doo wop thing
going on in "She Got Kick", adding to the overall effect that this is
an album that is pure and timeless. You'd believe it was recorded in
just about any of the last few decades, and it's extra inspiring,
educational, even, to hear Harper and Musselwhite trade and share the
lessons they've learned from their whole lives in the very NOW.
That Matters Now" is my favorite track, I think, and that's probably
because it's gorgeous, and I'm a girl. It's both men at their very best,
even with a case of the true blues. You're in the room. You hear the
strums, the thumps, and the breaths. Slow, sweet, sensual ... it feels
like a slow dance at the end of the night, in that closing bar we walked
into when it was still light out. You can hear Musselwhite laughing
with pleasure as they play, and that's what you'll do as you listen.
Harper has a song called "Lay There And Hate Me" that has a lyric that goes, Never trust a woman who loves the blues ... that came to mind as I listened to Get Up!
I'd like to think you can still trust me, but I do, I LOVE the blues,
especially as thrown down by Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite on this
epiphany of a record.
Get Up! - and Get it.
Get Up! is out today on the extra dope Stax Record Label.