Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite

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Editorial Review

Blues served up by a perfect pair
By Mike Joyce
Friday, April 26, 2013

When blues guitar and harmonica duos really click, the alliance doesn’t merely sound natural, it sounds inevitable. Witness this inspired union, featuring two vets who sound as if they were destined to sit alongside each other in concert.

Grammy-winning singer-songwriter and guitarist Ben Harper was born in 1969, when Charlie Musselwhite already was widely considered a harmonica great, thanks in part to his alliances with Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and other blues masters. Harper and Musselwhite have worked together on various projects since the late ’90s, but the album “Get Up!” is their first full-length collaboration, and it’s an expressive pairing from start to finish.

This is no small thing when you consider how much territory they cover. Often backed by Harper’s rhythm section, the duo conjures haunting, pre-war acoustic blues a la Skip James on the opener, “Don’t Look Twice,” and salutes Waters and prime-time Chicago electric blues sounds on “I’m in I’m Out and I’m Gone.” Harper and Musselwhite’s obvious chemistry also lends itself to tender soul ballads like “You Found Another Lover (I Lost Another Friend)” and Crescent City R&B grooves (“She Got Kick”).

Throughout, the songwriting is sharp and concise, laced with vivid imagery (“Don’t want no high-rise tombstone / Gonna gather up my saints”) and barbed rants (“Used to look at you with wonder / Now I look at you and wonder”). The deluxe edition of “Get Up!” contains a DVD in which Harper and Musselwhite discuss their musical kinship and unmistakably heartfelt rapport.