For Ben Harper, the blues have always been within arm’s reach. His latest collaboration with bluesman Charlie Musselwhite, Get Up!, finally allows Harper the time and space to deal with the blues—on his terms. The two players first met during a session with boogie-king John Lee Hooker more than a decade ago and have been occasional collaborators since. Both Harper and Musselwhite seem to have a profound effect on the other. The gritty and soulful sound of Musselwhite’s harp adds authenticity to the group, while Harper’s songs give “Memphis” Charlie more than a 12-bar form to explore.
And explore he does. Covering the bases from jazz and blues to more folkloric sounds, Musselwhite pushes Harper and his band in a way that really demonstrates why chemistry is so important when it comes to collaborative projects. Their groove is in full force on “I’m In, I’m Out, and I’m Gone,” where Harper channels John Lee with a stream-of-consciousness lyric that fits perfectly with the stomping shuffle groove. On this album, substance and feeling are placed above flash and polish, which is a rare thing these days, but entirely necessary when it comes to the blues.
Must-hear track: “I Ride at Dawn”