Ben Harper And Charlie Musselwhite ‘Get Up!’ In NY

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photo credit: Maria Ives

photo credit: Maria Ives

“This man needs no introduction: Charlie Musselwhite!” 

Ben Harper was expressing his admiration for the harmonica legend from the stage of their show at New York’s Irving Plaza. But Harper has, in fact, given Musselwhite a great introduction to a younger audience via their joint album, Get Up!   The concert promoted the record, released that day (January 29), and although most of the songs were new to most of the audience, the crowd greeted every number with excitement.  Get Up! sees Harper album writing and singing all of the songs, and using his current backing band;  Musselwhite plays harmonica on all the songs. But the shared billing is a testament to Harper’s respect for the harp player, and also to their chemistry as a duo. 

Accurately dubbed “An Evening Of The Blues Featuring Ben Harper And Charlie Musselwhite,” the show was indeed blues-centric, centered mainly around songs from Get Up!, plus a few from Harper and Musselwhite’s careers and three well-chosen covers. 

ben  Ben Harper And Charlie Musselwhite Get Up! In NY
(photo credit: Maria Ives)

Opening with the album’s first single “I Don’t Believe A Word You Say,” they set the tone with loud, aggressive blues-rock.  The album’s title track was welcomed as an old classic (and indeed, Harper and Musselwhite have managed to put out an album of new blues songs that sound classic but not overly familiar).  After that, Musselwhite took lead vocals on one of his signature songs, “Blues Overtook Me,” and they soon veered towards Harper’s catalog with “When It’s Good,” albeit in a different arrangement than the version on 2003’s Diamonds On The Inside. They were joined on that song by legendary rock photographer Danny Clinch, who is also a harmonica player. While the man has photographed legends including Bruce Springsteen, Johnny Cash and Tom Waits, he seemed stunned to be in a harmonica duet with one of the masters of the instrument. 

A few songs later, Musselwhite got back on vocals to take the lead on another of Harper’s songs, “Homeless Child” (from 1997’s The Will To Live). Hopefully he will take the lead on more Harper songs on future dates: hearing him sing them show just how well they’ve aged. “Homeless Child” was followed by the heaviest moment of the night, “I Ride At Dawn.” Harper dedicated the song to dedicated to the man he wrote it about, departed Navy SEAL Nicholas P. Spehar, the brother of a friend.  

charlie  Ben Harper And Charlie Musselwhite Get Up! In NY
(photo credit: Maria Ives)

The mood lightened a bit when Musselwhite sang “I’m Going Home,” a cover of a song by Prince Conley. (The day before the show, Musselwhite explained to Radio.com that he first heard the song on a 45″ issued by the legendary Stax Records when he was younger; Get Up! was released by the same label.  Read more about Musselwhite’s connection to “I’m Going Home” and Get Up! here.) 

ben charlie warren  Ben Harper And Charlie Musselwhite Get Up! In NY
(photo credit: Maria Ives) 

Harper then told the audience about playing the jam-band heavy H.O.R.D.E. tour in the ’90s and meeting a lifelong friend. “LIfe has a way of filtering people out, and at a certain point, the ones you’re left with are with you for life.”  And, with that, Gov’t Mule/Allman Brothers Band guitarist/singer Warren Haynes joined the group for a heavy version of Led Zeppelin’s “When The Levee Breaks” (the day prior, Harper pointed out to Radio.com that it was “Originally by Memphis Minnie.”) 

After a brief encore break, Harper, Musselwhite and the band returned for a few more songs from the new album, plus a bluesy take on Bob Dylan’s “Meet Me In The Morning.” 

Harper and Musselwhite have not yet announced a full tour (there are a few more dates, plus they’re doing some festivals later in the year, see Harper’s website for details).  One hopes that they do, in fact, launch a full tour. Or at least release a live album from one of their shows.  The chemistry between the two is undeniable, and should be experienced by both artist’s fan bases… which are probably merging in the wake of their excellent collaboration. 

Exclusive: Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite Offer A Behind-The-Scenes Look At Get Up! [Watch]

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Brian Ives, Radio.com 

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