How did six-string SoCal samurai Ben Harper and Mississippi-born harmonica resonator Charlie Musselwhite come to cut January’s Get Up!, whose Stax-imprinted originals channel the blues from Robert Johnson (“All That Matters Now”) to the Black Keys (“Blood Side Out”) with a dash of Bob Dylan (“I Ride at Dawn”)? Simple.
“John Lee Hooker was playing at a legendary club in Marin called the Sweetwater [Music Hall],” begins Harper from a South Dakota airport on Labor Day. “The club was struggling and he was playing there for a week to raise funds for them. And John Lee and Charlie were best friends. John Lee was the best man at Charlie’s wedding.
“So Charlie’s sitting in on those shows, and John Lee invited me to open up two or three of them. He’d heard my first record and said, ‘Yeah, give this kid the opening gig.’ ’Cause John Lee was a big music lover. I’ll never forget combing through John Lee Hooker’s music collection.
“He had Ry Cooder and John Fahey records. That’s where I first got to know Charlie. I was nobody. I mean, I was less than nobody – I was the opening act. And John Lee and Charlie were great to me, better than I deserve, letting me hang out backstage with them.
“[Some two years] after that, John Lee Hooker invited Charlie and I to play on what would be his last studio record. From that collaboration, John Lee pulled both of us aside and said, ‘You guys sound really good together. That’s something you two should look into.’
“And that’s how this record was born. We talked about it for freakin’ 15 years until we were actually able to do it.”– Raoul Hernandez
Wu-Tang Clan’s manifested more beef than a herd of Bevos. Raekwon takes the cake. Pissed off by RZA’s handling of production on 2007 Wu comeback 8 Diagrams, the NYC lifer opened fire with 2011’s Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang, hailed as the truer representation of the collective’s hard-hitting style. Such realism still pervades on next release Fly International Luxurious Art, Raekwon’s sixth. Locals Da’Shade, Frank Moses, Muggzy Flowz, and KB the Boo Bonic open.– Chase Hoffberger