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Ben Harper with Charlie Musselwhite - Get Up! (Review)

Ben Harper with Charlie Musselwhite, Get Up!

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 5 out of 5

HAVING originally met while collaborating on a John Lee Hooker record over a decade ago, Ben Harper and renowned harmonica master Charlie Musselwhite have decided to unite again for new album Get Up!. The result could quite possibly be one of the blues-soaked albums of the year!

Seamlessly combining Harper’s gruff vocals and penchant for slide guitar with Musselwhite’s harmonica, the album delivers 10 tracks of blues, gospel, roots and RnB in delicious style.

States Harper: ““Charlie and I have been looking to make this record for over ten years and now that we’ve gotten to it.”

Whilw Musselwhite adds: “Ben and I really locked in, personally and musically, when we recorded with John Lee Hooker. Ever since then we wanted to record together and being in the studio together is just a natural. You can hear it and feel it in the music on Get Up!

And the hits just keep on coming, mixing rousing blues rock with quieter, more intimate moments that recall some of the great names in blues, rock and RnB, whether it’s Hooker himself, BB King, Clapton or more.

The album gets off to a great start with the old school, hang-dog blues of Don’t Think Twice, a searing take on the politics of personal destruction that expertly combine low-key riffs with subtle harmonica and broke-down vocals.

I’m In, I’m Out, And I’m Gone has more of a foot-stomping RnB vibe attached and a really classic vocal delivery, but the first out-and-out classic is the handclap led We Can’t End This Way, which infuses gospel with blues and some scintillating melodies (both guitar-based and harmonica-driven). It’s just a really great record.

Likewise, the beefy I Don’t Believe (A Word You Say), a track that screams anguish and which The Heavy would be proud to call their own. It’s got some blistering guitar hooks, an emphatic set of vocals and siren-like blasts of Musselwhite harmonica.

There’s a lazy, laidback vibe attached to the intimate Found Another Lover which is sublime for just chilling out with (and reflecting on your own romantic entanglements), while I Ride At Dawn, with its delicious bass and cinematic grandeur recalls the melancholy tale of a ghostly soldier awaiting his duty but lamenting the mind-numbing futility of war. It’s a haunting battle hymn that reflects on the generation-spanning wastefulness of war and it’s another firm highlight.

Blood Side Out, with its barnstorming opening of drums and harmonica, is another rabble-rousing blues-rock anthem (a feel-good moment that serves as a nice pick-me-up after the thoughtfulness of I Ride At Dawn), while Get Up again opens amid some scintillating bass lines, before weaving in the slide guitars and harmonica to winning effect, wrapped around a tale of empowerment.

It tells the tale of a convict measuring his prizefight with the truth and drops doozies of lines such as: “Don’t tell me I can’t break the law, Cause the law has broken me.”

There’s a cool RnB shuffle to She Got Kick that restores the good-time vibe (complete with bouncing piano chords), before All That Matters Now rounds things off in low-key, dusky fashion with a lazy blues anthem that draws thoughtfully on both Harper’s and Musselwhite’s instrumental prowess.

Trust us, you really don’t want to miss out on hearing this.

Download picks: We Can’t End This Way, I Don’t Believe (A Word You Say), I Ride At Dawn, Blood Side Out, Get Up, She Got Kick

Track listing:

  1. Don’t Think Twice
  2. I’m In, I’m Out, And I’m Gone
  3. We Can’t End This Way
  4. I Don’t Believe (A Word You Say)
  5. Found Another Lover
  6. I Ride At Dawn
  7. Blood Side Out
  8. Get Up
  9. She Got Kick
  10. All That Matters Now