[3 November 2010]
Given Charlie Musselwhite’s deep discography and vaunted position in modern blues circles, it might come as a surprise that he is just now producing an album of his own songs. But the songs on The Well are worth the wait, as all those decades have provided Musselwhite the rare chance to distill a lifetime’s worth of rich experiences into a single record. Unsurprisingly, the subjects range widely, in both space and time: we glimpse the singer’s childhood in Mississippi and Memphis, and his apprenticeship in Chicago. One poignant track credits the 1987 “Baby Jessica” McLure incident with helping the singer overcome alcoholism, and “Sad and Beautiful World”, an obvious highlight with a guest spot by Mavis Staples, finds hope in the devastating incident of Musselwhite’s mother’s murder in her Memphis home. The playing is characteristically tight and economical, with special emphasis on Musselwhite’s harp and rich, worn voice. All told, The Well proves that Musselwhite’s command of blues templates and his deeply lived life allow him to merge his own stories with the sounds of the blues masters.