Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite’s new release No Mercy in This Land (ANTI-) is rugged and substantial unpretentious blues. The pairing of Musselwhite and Harper returns even more flawlessly than it was in their 2013 GRAMMY winning project Get Up!.
The production was a group effort involving Harper, Ethan Allen (who also mixed the album), and the rest of the band (guitar wizard Jason Mozersky, Jesse Ingalls, Jimmy Paxson) and Sheldon Gomberg. The production quality is stunning. Listen to the first 30 second opening of “When I Go” and you’ll hear an ambient, big room, hushed quality that’ll transport you to a roomful of real life spiritual meditative chanting.
Harper has an uncanny ability to writes songs that sound like traditional blues songs, striking that familiar chord within that’ll cause you to swear you’ve heard ‘em before. “Bad Habits” is a bit of Chicago-style blues, while “Found the One” is nascent rock and roll. “The Bottle Wins Again” combines call and response between instruments and vocals in a moving powerful number, and “I Found the One” will get your sexy groove going, while “I Trust You to Dig My Grave” is more of the hill country blues.
Musselwhite’s vocals mingling with Harper’s on “No Mercy in This Land” are divine with Jesse Ingalls hypnotizing on Hammond B-3. The music is languid and grounded, ambient and real, raw and true. Harper’s ear for blues songwriting and his adept instrumental abilities are mature and poised. Musselwhite is so much more than a harmonica player, he’s been resonating in the blues since the early 1960’s.
This album is destined for wide acclaim, and must be in your top ten purchases this year. Get yours here!