Charlie Musselwhite gained fame as a world-class Chicago blues harmonica player, but his roots run deep in the Delta—he was born 78 years ago in Kosciusko, Mississippi, outside of Jackson. Raised in Memphis, Musselwhite mastered the harp, but also learned to play guitar under the tutelage of such blues-guitar legends as Furry Lewis, Will Shade, and Gus Cannon, as well as rockabilly great Johnny Burnette, a close family friend. Recently, Musselwhite moved from his longtime digs in fire-ravaged Northern California to his Mississippi home. The result is this 13-track album, recorded in Clarksdale, Mississippi.
Mississippi Son features Musselwhite on vocals, harmonica, and guitar, playing six originals, including the opener, “Blues Up the River,” and such covers as Charley Patton’s “Pea Vine Blues” and John Lee Hooker’s “Crawlin’ King Snake” and “Hobo Blues.” He is backed by bassist Barry Bays and drummer Ricky “Quicksand” Martin. The mood is laid-back as Musselwhite delivers fingerpicked country blues on both acoustic (1954 Gibson J-45) and electric (Silvertone 1457) guitars, even performing a tribute to his former roommate Big Joe Williams on Big Joe’s 1944 Gibson L-7 (built the year of Musselwhite’s birth). Acoustic guitar standouts include Guy Clark’s whimsical “The Dark,” the Stanley Brothers’ “Rank Strangers,” and the elegiac “A Voice Foretold” (from the 1983 musical The Gospel at Colonus), in addition to the originals “In Your Darkest Hour,” “My Road Lies in Darkness,” and “Stingaree.” Mississippi Son finds Musselwhite basking in his birthplace and sharing all the comforts of home.
This article originally appeared in the July/August 2022 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.