NEW RELEASE OF THE WEEK: BEN HARPER AND CHARLIE MUSSELWHITE

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If a case needs to be made for blues music in the mainstream – and really, given the story of Adele, it shouldn’t – this meeting of crack talents from two generations fits the brief.

Ben Harper has been exploring the rootsy end of the pop spectrum for more than 20 years without ever identifying himself with a genre. He has mixed vintage jazz with beatboxing and even covered “Strawberry Fields Forever.”

But it has been in dialogue that his gifts have flourished, and the passing years have found him an increasingly productive collaborator.

“I only know one tune,” has been Charlie Musselwhite’s confession – but what a tune. This is the veteran whose third wedding featured John Lee Hooker as best man, and since his sensational debut in the 60s blues boom he has earned an unequalled reputation as a harmonica man.

Now sweet, now rasping, and always chorusing and counterpointing with the keenest ears around, Musselwhite’s dialogue with Harper’s soulful tenor and punchy guitar is pure Astaire and Rogers.

All the way through, Musselwhite’s subtle, rich-toned commentary maintains a focus. So you’ll hear echoes of Jimi Hendrix, the Blind Boys and even the laidback groove of Jack Johnson here, but make no mistake: this is the blues. BBC

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