Charlie Musselwhite - Delta Hardware

Charlie Musselwhite
Delta Hardware

(Real World)

First Appeared in The Music Box, May 2006, Volume 13, #5

Written by John Metzger


Despite the music business’ best intentions of turning 2003 into the "Year of the Blues," the genre once again has slipped beneath the surface of the mainstream’s purview, meaning that many of its most talented musicians — such as harmonica ace Charlie Musselwhite — are likely to remain well-kept secrets. Not that Musselwhite hasn’t flirted with widespread recognition. His contributions to the burgeoning "white-boy blues scene" of the 1960s continue to hold sway over blues fans young and old, and after kicking a lengthy battle with alcoholism in the latter half of the ’80s, he reconstituted his career by not only diversifying his sound via such choice nuggets as In My Time and Sanctuary but also by spending his spare moments accompanying the likes of Bonnie Raitt, Tom Waits, and Ben Harper.

On his latest endeavor Delta Hardware, Musselwhite continues, at least in part, to shade his material with a variegated hue. However, unlike his past outings, the diversity of his approach becomes a detriment to him in that the album’s least interesting tracks are those that stray furthest from the blues. Save for the short bursts of harmonica that put a charge into the opening Church Is Out, the song’s rock ’n‘ roll jangle quickly wears thin. Likewise, Musselwhite’s underwhelming vocals combined with an arrangement that goes tediously awry serve only to muddle the heady, politically-minded swirl of Black Water.

Yet, in spite of these missteps, Delta Hardware’s highlights are downright impeccable. Both One of These Mornings and Blues for Yesterday — the former with its rampaging rhythm and snarling guitar; the latter with its buzzing harmonica and heavily stomping beat — are throwbacks to Musselwhite’s days in Chicago, while the Mississippi-bred drone of Clarksdale Boogie as well as the smoldering anguish of Just a Feeling superbly recast more traditional blues-based architectures. Taken in full, there’s no denying that Delta Hardware is a solidly delivered affair, but coming in the wake of the critically lauded Sanctuary, it can’t help but be a tad disappointing to watch as Musselwhite drifts slowly back down to Earth. starstarstar


28th Annual Blues Music Award Winner:
Album of the Year

28th Annual Blues Music Award Winner:
Song of the Year
Church Is Out

28th Annual Blues Music Award Winner:
Traditional Blues Album of the Year


Delta Hardware is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!


Copyright © 2006 The Music Box