Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Music News, Concert Reviews

Album review: Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite team for bluesy blast

Ranging and roaring from Louisiana gutbucket blues to Led Zeppelin rock 'n' stomp, Get Up!, a new collaboration between Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite, is, right now, the best album of 2013. Sure, there's a plenty of year left, but that'll have to be one heck of a record that tops this.

Harper — an African-American Jewish Cherokee — is a 43-year-old soul rocker, a restless Renaissance man who can wail on his trusty axe like Hendrix then howl and sway with the Blind Boys of Alabama, his voice a rough-hewn street preacher's plea. Musselwhite — rumored to be the inspiration for Dan Aykroyd's Elwood in The Blues Brothers — is a 69-year-old electric harmonica whiz, a fluid, inventive prince of the "white bluesmen" movement in the '60s.

Strange bedfellows? No way. L.A. Ben and Mississippi Charlie were absolutely made for each other. And as if this 10-track masterpiece couldn't get any cooler, Get Up! was released on a revived version of the classic Stax Records label, the famed Memphis music factory that gave the world Otis Redding, Booker T. & the MGs and Isaac Hayes.

Harper has a writing hand in every dusty, leathery track, which alternate from low-and-slow to head-nod grooving to Jurassic-sized first "single" I Don't Believe a Word You Say, which still blows my hair back after 20 listens. On that incendiary cut ("I see your mouth moving / But there's a circus coming out"), Harper takes lead vocal and lead slide guitar — his greasy licks vicious and accusatory — while an amped-up Musselwhite chews on that harmonica as if he's hopping and bopping up Misty Mountain. It's a TREMENDOUS song. Cue that sucker up as soon as you can.

For all the bonding and bromancing going on between the album's two stars, Get Up! is largely about the divides we live with in the 21st century: prosperity and despair, love and apathy, peace and war. On the communal bonfire hug of We Can't End This Way, Harper and Musselwhite (his notes burbling with hope here) urge uplift and understanding as they watch a city street corner bustling with rich and poor. The mood is grimmer on I Ride at Dawn, about a fourth-generation soldier heading into a battle he knows will take his life. Harper doesn't judge; he dedicates the song to a Navy SEAL. "I was born for battle / I was born to bleed."

Bluesmen being bluesmen, Harper and Musselwhite can't totally resist serenading the fairer sex, so they close things out with disparate love letters. Borrowing the drunken roll of Wooly Bully, the song She Got Kick is a rambunctiously fun throwaway: "And when she gets to kicking/ You had better duck / Cause if her kicking catches you / You'll be stone outta luck."

Recorded live in a noisy, rackety studio, album closer All That Matters Now is an epic, end-credits blues gem, hungover and cinematic, with Musselwhite playing slow and Harper searching for a silver lining: "It's been a hard life / But we're together / And that's all that matters now." If such a rambunctious record ends too somberly for you, don't fret: You'll be spinning this one again, and again, soon enough.

Sean Daly can be reached at [email protected] Follow @seandalypoplife on Twitter.

Comments
Neil Diamond says he has Parkinson’s, retires from touring

Neil Diamond says he has Parkinson’s, retires from touring

NEW YORK — Neil Diamond is retiring from touring after he says he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, who turns 77 on Wednesday, is canceling his tour dates in Australia and New Zealand for March. He was on his 50...
Updated: 2 hours ago
SoundBytes: Dierks Bentley, Kris Kristofferson, Anthony Jeselnik and more

SoundBytes: Dierks Bentley, Kris Kristofferson, Anthony Jeselnik and more

— Add another concert to the pile of potential Country Megaticket shows at Tampa's MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre: Dierks Bentley. The country superstar announced he'll be coming to Tampa this summer with Brothers Osborne and LANCO, but n...
Published: 01/22/18
These music icons have surprisingly never won a Grammy

These music icons have surprisingly never won a Grammy

By MESFIN FEKADUNEW YORK CITY — It’s a hard pill to swallow, but listen to this: Diana Ross has never won a Grammy. She’s part of a group of iconic musicians who can’t call themselves Grammy winners, including Bob Marley, Chuck Berry, the Beach Boys,...
Published: 01/22/18
Daryl Hall and John Oates, Train coming to Amalie Arena in Tampa

Daryl Hall and John Oates, Train coming to Amalie Arena in Tampa

Just try to feel bad after seeing this show. It's impossible. Can't be done.Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Daryl Hall and John Oates are heading back on the road this summer, and they're doing it with perennially sunny pop-rock hitmakers Train. They'll...
Published: 01/22/18
Jake Owen, Dustin Lynch to headline concert at PGA’s Valspar Championship in Palm Harbor

Jake Owen, Dustin Lynch to headline concert at PGA’s Valspar Championship in Palm Harbor

After a five-year absence from Tampa Bay, Jake Owen is making up for lost time in 2018.Days after headlining the U.S. 103.5 Throwdown By the Bay at Amalie Arena, it was announced Owen will return to Tampa Bay to headline the annual Saturday night con...
Published: 01/22/18
Kendrick Lamar, SZA, Schoolboy Q, more coming to Tampa’s MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre

Kendrick Lamar, SZA, Schoolboy Q, more coming to Tampa’s MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre

With the Grammys on Sunday, it's poised to be a big week for Kendrick Lamar. So he's planning a victory tour with his whole team.Lamar's label, Top Dawg Entertainment, just announced an all-star tour toppeed by Kung-Fu Kenny; acclaimed R&B sensation ...
Published: 01/22/18
SoundBytes: Fall Out Boy, Indigo Girls, Spin Doctors, Erasure and more

SoundBytes: Fall Out Boy, Indigo Girls, Spin Doctors, Erasure and more

— If you missed Fall Out Boy's Tampa concert last fall, they're coming to Orlando in September. They'll play the Amway Center with Machine Gun Kelly on Sept. 16. Click here.— Moon Taxi will join Fitz and the Tantrums on the bill for a fre...
Published: 01/19/18
Lady Antebellum, Darius Rucker coming to the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre in Tampa

Lady Antebellum, Darius Rucker coming to the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre in Tampa

We're about a week out from the announcement of Live Nation's 2018 Country Megaticket, a multi-concert package that usually brings about a half-dozen acts to the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre. As such, country acts left and right are slipping ...
Published: 01/19/18
Rapper Kodak Black arrested in Florida on grand theft, other charges

Rapper Kodak Black arrested in Florida on grand theft, other charges

FORT LAUDERDALE — Rapper Kodak Black has been ordered held without bail in Florida on seven felony charges that include child neglect and drug possession.The Broward Sheriff’s Office arrested the 20-year-old rapper, whose real name is Dieuson Octave,...
Published: 01/19/18
Journey, Def Leppard coming to Amalie Arena in Tampa

Journey, Def Leppard coming to Amalie Arena in Tampa

Your radio is going on tour.At least, it'll feel that way when Journey and Def Leppard, two of the most-played, most popular classic rock groups of all time, team up for a summer co-headlining trek featuring an absolute cavalcade of hits: Don't Stop ...
Published: 01/19/18