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CD REVIEW

Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite: No Mercy in this Land

by Justin Jacobs on April 16, 2018

The day that Charlie Musselwhite and Ben Harper won a Best Blues Album Grammy in 2014 for their collaboration Get Up!, the duo was already plotting their next move. While they didn’t exactly bang out another record that night—as Harper mentioned in an interview he was willing to do—their second release, No Mercy in this Land , has all of the soulful, jittery energy and pure blues power of two equally inspiring friends in awe of each other. No Mercy opens with an absolutely ripping guitar riff on the slow-but-explosive “When I Go,” a tune that builds from haunting hymnal harmonies into one of Harper’s big, soulful choruses, setting the tone for this collection of 10 gritty, rollicking blues-rock jams. Throughout, Musselwhite wields his harmonica like a lethal weapon—this isn’t sensitive, acoustic-folk harmonica, but tones blasted to the rafters, every bit as powerful as Harper’s electric guitar. At its core, No Mercy is ragged barroom fun that comes out swinging. Though a few cuts, like the piano ballad “When Love Is Not Enough,” aim for the heart, most of these tunes shoot for the hip, with deep-boogie blues grooves shimmying and quaking. Take the electrifying “The Bottle Wins Again,” which ignites in fiery soloing from both men, and Harper crowing, “Meet me in an hour, we’ll have just one or two,” though we all know he’s having too much fun to cap the night early. It’s safe to bet that this duo feels the same way they did on that Grammy night—with any luck, they’ll ride this wave right back to the studio and keep rocking.
Authors: Justin Jacobs
Artist: Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite
Album: No Mercy in this Land
Label: ANTI