Charlie Musselwhite, Tail Dragger | Buddy Guy’s Legends | Blues, Gospel, and R&B | Chicago Reader

Charlie Musselwhite, Tail Dragger Soundboard Recommended Critics' Picks

When: Sat., Oct. 2, 9:30 p.m. 2010

Charlie Musselwhite's last few CDs have included plenty of alt-country-style brooding, and a glance at the harmonica-playing bluesman's craggy face on the cover of The Well (Alligator)—not to mention titles such as "Dig the Pain," "Hoodoo Queen," and "Sorcerer's Dream"—makes it seem even grimmer than usual. But most of The Well is upbeat, driving, and ebullient; Musselwhite's tone is robust, as is his famous ability to maintain it through dauntingly long phrases, and he mines unexpected optimism from even foreboding subjects. The hoodoo songs sound like funny-scary Halloween yarns, "Dig the Pain" is a lightly swinging, jazz-tinged workout laced with sardonic irony, and the title track tells how Musselwhite beat alcoholism in 1987—inspired by the bravery of Jessica McClure, the 18-month-old Texas girl who'd gotten trapped at the bottom of a well, he vowed not to drink till she was rescued. The disc's centerpiece, "Sad and Beautiful World," is a heartfelt testimony of redemption that Musselwhite wrote after his mother was brutally murdered in her Memphis home in 2005, lifted further by the gospel fervor of guest vocalist Mavis Staples. Tail Dragger opens. —David Whiteis

Price: $20

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