Review: Bishop, Musselwhite pair up for vigorous blues fest

Two Southern boys who both hit the big time in 1960s Chicago — Elvin Bishop and Charlie Musselwhite — have over a century of blues experience between them

Music Review - Elvin Bishop and Charlie Musselwhite
Music Review - Elvin Bishop and Charlie Musselwhite

Elvin Bishop and Charlie Musselwhite, “100 Years of Blues” (Alligator Records)

Two Southern boys who both hit the big time in 1960s Chicago — Elvin Bishop and Charlie Musselwhite — have over a century of blues experience between them.

Their first album together, “100 Years of Blues ” plays on that longevity but neither Oklahoma guitar ace Bishop, nor Tennessee harmonica legend Musselwhite sound ready for retirement just yet.

With mighty fine support from Bob Welsh on guitar and piano and album producer Kid Andersen on upright bass, the duo revs up one fabulous tune after another, trading licks and showing off an easy chemistry based on their common musical roots.

Opener “Birds of a Feather” celebrates the blues’ power to join people in celebration and, like most of the songs, was written by one or both of the men.

Two exceptions are Leroy Carr’s mournful and heartbroken “Midnight Hour Blues” and the desperate but dignified “Help Me,” from Willie Dixon and Sonny Boy Williamson II.

“What the Hell?” despairs about the country’s great divides — “Why can’t we halfway get along?” — while “Old School” champions life without, among other things, social media or tattoos. It could be the album’s motto, too.

The record ends with a new and improved version of the title track, a tune co-written by the duo and already recorded for the 2017 album “Elvin Bishop’s Big Fun Trio."

Its deep groves and autobiographical lyrics, more narrated than sung, make it an enjoyable way to perform a resume: “We’re mighty glad to be here/And actually we’re lucky to be anywhere at all.”

Bishop and Musselwhite, both past 75, can still show musicians a third their age not just a trick or two but also how to survive the blues with your talents intact.

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