Charlie Musselwhite hasn't lived in Chicago for a long time, but the Mississippi-Memphis lad cut his teeth in the Second City second generation of upstart white bluesboys like Paul Butterfield and Mike Bloomfield, who looked up to their heroes: Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, James Cotton, Junior Wells. It's funny that guys like Musselwhite have now become elder statesmen. Fact is, Musselwhite is one of the greatest harp players of his or anybody's generation, and his new CD, Delta Hardware, is serious top-shelf blues, but with a slight social twist, especially on songs like "Black Water," which is about Katrina and a few other things. The disc opens with "Church Is Out," which makes Musselwhite seem like a harp-playing Delta cousin to Mose Allison, with a lyrical wit that is dry, audacious, and sly. "One of These Mornings" is pure homeboy stomp -- a touch of Muddy, a little Elmore James. Musselwhite revisits his own "Clarksdale Boogie," but with a harder beat, and there's a smidgen of Otis Rush in "Just a Feeling." Delta Hardware is why people still dig the blues -- and there's not a bad track in the bunch.
Charlie Musselwhite is scheduled to perform on Sunday, May 21, at the Rhythm Room.