Born in Mississippi, Charlie Musselwhite's family moved to Memphis while he was young and so it was there, in the '40s and '50s that he developed his musical muscles, learning from such greats as Furry Lewis. On One Night In America Musselwhite covers Johnny Cash and Jimmy Reed among others in an attempt to recreate the feel if not the sounds that influenced and surrounded him growing up in Memphis. The resulting album mixes country, gospel, hillbilly, and, of course, blues, in a bumpin', groovin' jukejoint chug-a-lug.
Opening with "Trail of Tears", Musselwhite takes us back to his youth and the proto R&B of the Memphis sound. "Cold Grey Light of Dawn" has the lope and bounce of early Johnny Cash, even though it was written by Ivory Joe Hunter, so it is no surprise that Musselwhite also covers Cash's "Big River" and gives it a wonderful ride. The Los Lobos tune, "One Time, One Night", may be a relatively new song compared to the others here, but in Musslewhite's hands it sounds like it was written in 1954 while watching the world from the back of a Greyhound rolling down Highway 78 from Memphis to Tupelo. "Rank Strangers to Me" blends church and blues into a plaintive cry for family and friends while "Walking Alone" is a mid-tempo shuffle about lost love. As good as these tunes are though Musselwhite really comes to life on his own tunes. "In Your Darkest Hour" is a duet with Charlie on vocals and harp and T-Bone Wolk on bass. A beautiful blues offering hard won solace, Musselwhite plays with delicacy and passion, showing why he has been and remains the flag bearer for blues harmonica. "Blues Overtook Me", another outstanding original, is a mid-tempo tune built on a deep roadhouse groove.
Throughout the album the backing band, G.E. Smith on guitar, T-Bone Wolk on bass, and either Per Hanson or Michael Jerome on drums, is tight, funky and focused. With Marty Stuart and Robben Ford adding guitar on several track a piece, the playing throughout is tasty and sizzling rather then burn the house down on fire, but then that fits the groove of Memphis to a tee. Overall, a very honest and enjoyable evocation of a time gone by but warmly remembered.
Sound Quality: 95