Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite – Get Up! (2013)

FrontCover1Benjamin Chase Harper (born October 28, 1969) is an American singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. Harper plays an eclectic mix of blues, folk, soul, reggae, and rock music and is known for his guitar-playing skills, vocals, live performances, and activism. He has released twelve regular studio albums, mostly through Virgin Records and has toured internationally.

Harper is a three-time Grammy Award winner and seven-time nominee, with awards for Best Pop Instrumental Performance and Best Traditional Soul Gospel Album in 2004 and Best Blues Album in 2013.

At the 40th Blues Music Awards ceremony, Harper’s joint composition with Charlie Musselwhite, “No Mercy In This Land”, was named as ‘Song of the Year’.

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Get Up! is an album by the American musicians Charlie Musselwhite and Ben Harper, their twenty-ninth and eleventh album, respectively. It was released in January 2013 under Stax Records. In 2019, the song You Found Another Lover (I Lost Another Friend) was certified Gold by RIAA

The album won a Grammy Award for Best Blues Album in 2014.

The album has been given a Metacritic score of 79 out of 100 based on 9 reviews, indicating generally favorable reviews.

The album entered the Billboard 200 at No. 27 on its release in the United States. It also debuted at No. 1 on the Blues Albums chart. (wikipedia)

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This musical hookup between these two experienced roots artists who have more in common than it seems at first glance, is a natural evolution for both. Ben Harper seemed like an old soul, even when he began his career, dipping into classic R&B, gospel, and blues but spinning them through his dark, folk-funk persona. His work with the Blind Boys of Alabama showed him to be welcomed by veteran artists who clearly felt he was a kindred spirit. Harpist/guitarist Charlie Musselwhite’s extensive résumé typically moved him past the often limiting structure of the Chicago blues where he first made his presence felt, to Tex-Mex, Cuban, Americana, swamp rock, country, and even jazz. The two connected on a 1997 John Lee Hooker session and have worked together intermittently since, both live and in the studio. This outing, tellingly released on the Concord/Stax imprint, strips the sound down, occasionally to just acoustic guitar and harp as on the opening of “Don’t Think Twice,” and the closing deep Delta blues “All That Matters Now,” reworked into “It Hurts Me Too.” But the duo also plug in for tough, rugged blues and blues-rock as on the heart thumping “I’m in I’m Out and I’m Gone,” a twist on David Bowie’s “The Jene Genie” riff that itself was nabbed from the Chicago blues catalog. Even with Musselwhite’s substantial involvement, this is Harper’s show as he produces, sings every song, and seems to be leading the music’s direction with the harmonica player urging him on and adding to the already deep groove. They dip into harder rocking territory for the charging “I Don’t Believe a Word You Say” with Musselwhite pulling out his Little Walter influences with electrified blowing.

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The skeletal, ghostly, repeated riff of the deadly gunslinger “I Ride at Dawn” is a stark reminder of how less is more as Harper’s slide enhances the dangerous elements reflected in the song’s ominous lyrics. The six-minute title track — the disc’s longest cut — is classic Harper, marrying a funky bassline with the declaration expressed in the song’s title as Musselwhite takes a few licks from Paul Butterfield to edge the track into a laid-back red zone where the singer typically thrives. But the twosome have some fun, too, in particular on the spirited, easygoing, sexed-up blues “She Got Kick,” one of the few instances where harmonica is not an integral component of the mix. Ultimately, Get Up! earns its titular exclamation point as a successful combination of two talented veterans feeding off each other’s dusky, creative spirit. (by Hal Horowitz)

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In 1970, John Lee Hooker recorded the heralded “Hooker and Heat” with Canned Heat, featuring the masterful harp of Alan Wilson on the track “Burning Hell”. The musicians engage in a little studio banter right before the number begins, and John Lee says fondly of Wilson “I don’t know how the kid follow me, but he do!”. Fast forward about three decades and John Lee re-cut the song with master harmonica man Charlie Musselwhite and “the kid” on this outing, Ben Harper on lap steel. Hooker was impressed and suggested that Charlie and Ben work together again. When Musselwhite released “Sanctuary” in 2004, Harper played on the title track and “Homeless Child”, one of his own compositions. With “Get Up!”, we have a full collaboration from these talented men.

Harper handles the lead vocals on all songs, and his voice has only gotten stronger over the years. Musselwhite is a veteran working with lap steel, recording with the great Freddie Roulette as far back as 1969- the year Ben Harper was born. For his part, Harper plays the highly sought after Weissenborn lap steel. His tight band includes guitarist Jason Mazersky, drummer Jordan Richardson and bassist/keyboardist Jesse Ingalls. Harper produced the disc and all of the participants are of the highest caliber, but the best part of “Get Up!” is something that doesn’t often demand attention in the Blues- the songwriting.

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These are all original Harper compositions, with co-writing credit shared with Mozersky and Ingalls on several tracks. Ben is known for his activism and interest in social causes worldwide, and his influences include world music, folk and reggae. His lyrics reflect the complex world around him, and the themes to his songs portray a vision not often seen in Blues. The opening track “Don’t Look Twice” is a witty acoustic track with only Musselwite’s diatonic backing Harper’s acoustic while he sings “It’s hard when the ceiling says to the floor, I’ll trade you places, I can’t take it no more”. The next track, “I’m In I”m Out And I’m Gone” is a lively Blues march that leads into the clap along waltz “We Can’t End This Way” with engaging interplay between lap slide and harp.

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“I Don’t Believe A Word You Say” is the strongest rocker on the disc with lots of musical spaces for Musselwhite’s harp. “I Ride At Dawn” is one of the most poignant songs ever written for the Blues. The song deals with the sacrifices and loss involved in war.Harper dedicated this track to Nicholas P. Spehar, a Navy SEAL lost in action. “You Found Another Lover” is another acoustic track featuring only Harper and Musselwhite with a welcome familiar soul blues groove (think “I’d Rather Go Blind”).

“Blood Side Out” is another rocker with Harper and Musselwhite swapping solos. The title track is the closest thing to the traditional AAB Blues format. Wildly inventive bass by Ingalls on this one, very cool lyrics:”I have a right to get up when I please; don’t tell me I can’t break the law ’cause the law has broken me”. (R.J. Zurek)

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Personnel:
Ben Harper (guitar, vocals, slixdde-guitar)
Jesse Ingalls (bass, keyboards)
Jason Mazersky (guitar)
Charlie Musselwhite (harmonica)
Jordan Richardson (drums)
+
background vocals on 03.:
C.C.White – Marti Walker – Pebbles Phillips – Charlie Musselwhite

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Tracklist:
01. Don’t Look Twice (Harper) 3.12
02. I’m In, I’m Out, I’m Gone (Harper/Mozersky) 4.37
03. We Can’t End This Way (Harper) 3.34
04. I Don’t Believe A Word You Say (Harper) 3.17
05. You Found Another Lover (I Lost Another Friend) (Harper) 4.13
06. I Ride At Dawn (Harper/Ingalls) 4.41
07. Blood Side Out (Harper/Mozersky) 2.52
08. Get Up! (Harper/Ingalls) 6.16
09. She Got Kick (Harper/Mozersky) 2.56
10. All That Matters Now (Harper/Mozersky) 4.53

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