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Harmonica legend digs deep on autobiographical new album

of the Oakland Press

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Veteran blues singer and harmonica player Charlie Musselwhite has written his share of original songs over the years, but in nearly 45 years of recording he’s never done a full-band album comprised of his own material.

Until now.

“The Wall” is a personal and frequently autobiographical collection of songs Musselwhite wrote himself, an idea he credits to producer Chris Goldsmith.

“Fortunately I had enough tunes to fulfill that quest, so it turned out pretty good,” the Mississippi-born Musselwhite, 66, says with a laugh. “A lot of the tunes had been sitting around for a long time, and some of them I came up with right away. We had fun doing it.”

Musselwhite says his songs on “The Well” are “all what I know about, which is my life.” Sometimes that was painful; “Dig the Pain” faces down his battles with alcohol — he’s sober these days, even though he lives in wine country in Sonoma County, Calif. — while “Cook County Blues” chronicles a brief incarceration when he was younger. And “Sad and Beautiful World,” a duet with Mavis Staples, documents the murder of Musselwhite’s 93-year-old mother during a burglary in her home.

“John Lee Hooker said that blues is a healer,” Musselwhite notes. “Writing all these tunes has a healing effect. It’s your comforter when you’re down and your good buddy when you’re up, so it’s good all the way around.

“You just start kind of working on things, and if you’re paying attention or tuned in it seems like the song is already there. It’s sort of like a sculptor when he picks a block or rock; the piece is in there, so you whittle it away and, lo and behold, there it is, and it reveals itself.”

Charlie Musselwhite performs Wednesday, Sept. 29, at Callahan’s Music Hall, 2105 South Blvd., Auburn Hills. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $22.50 in advance, $25 day of show. Call 248-858-9508 or visit www.atcallahans.com.

Web Site: www.atcallahans.com

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