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January/February 1998

Charlie Musselwhite
Rough News
Pointblank Records

Sure, we all know that Charlie Musselwhite is a great, rip-snorting hellion of a harmonica player...has been for some 30 years. No argument there. His singing, however, like Mose Allison's, is an acquired taste. On Charlie's 17th as a leader, Rough News (Pointblank 7243 8 42856 2 3; 46:58), I kept wishing he had turned over vocal chores to Robert Ealey...but noooo! The lyrics here, especially on "Both Sides Of The Fence" and "I Sat And Cried," are clever enough. And it's cool to hear Musselwhite dip into his virtuoso diatonic harp bag on faithful renditions of "Sleepwalk" and "Harlem Nocturne" and the jazzy title track. His raw country blues styled guitar playing is also affecting on "Darkest Hour" and "Clarksdale Boogie." But I much prefer to hear him blowing his ass off on harmonica, like on the no-holds barred Chicago-styled shuffle, "Rough Dried Woman." Actually, I could use a whole album of that kind of stuff. But that's just me.

Originally published in January/February 1998
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