Charlie Musselwhite

One Night In America

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Charlie Musselwhite continues his prolific four-decade career jumping over to Telarc for his first album of the millennium after spending the '90s recording for Alligator and Virgin. A recap of his formative Memphis roots, Musselwhite receives substantial assistance from guests Robben Ford on guitar (Musselwhite provided Ford with his first gigs when the guitarist was in his late teens), Texas vocalist Kelly Willis, and guitarist/mandolin player Marty Stuart; the last two bring a rootsy, laid back country feel to the album that effectively fuses the swampy C&W, R&B, and blues of Memphis into a cohesive statement. Musselwhite blows unamplified harp on every track, but it's his weathered, understated vocals that infuse these songs with down-home charm. Covers from Jimmy Reed, Los Lobos (the album takes its title from their "One Time One Night"), Ivory Joe Hunter, and Kieran Kane flow beautifully into each other as the artist masterfully blurs the lines between genres. He tears into Johnny Cash's "Big River" like it was a Chicago blues classic and retells his own childhood in the affecting original "Blues Overtook Me." He and producer Randy Labbe generate a Creedence-styled swamp vibe on the opening "Trail of Tears," with both Willis and Christine Ohlman chiming in on gripping backing vocals that set the atmosphere. But the album resonates most effectively on the sparsest tracks. "Ain't It Time" exudes a resigned, almost gospel feel in its achingly slow groove, and "In Your Darkest Hour," another Musselwhite original, shimmers with just harp and T-Bone Wolk's spooky walking bass creating a foggy mood that envelopes the listener. Not just a fresh start at a new label, this album is a sentimental and sincere recap of Musselwhite's influences and a stirring listen throughout.

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