26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on May 4, 2004
On the Internet you'll find Charlie Musselwhite's Alligator Records bio, his VH1 bio. And his Blind Pig Records bio and many others, so well-traveled is this blues icon
And it seems as if this master of the blues harp has been around as long as harmonicas. He adds to his legend with each album and guest appearance and here's his latest - Sanctuary (Real World)
I locked into it on the 2nd listen and it's a special recording. The songs are from great writers. Randy Newman's "Burn Down the Cornfield", Townes Van Zandt's "Snake Song" and Sonny Landreth's "Shootin' For the Moon are here. There are also songs written by Musselwhite, Ben Harper (the album's best cut, "Homeless Child"), a song by the album's guitarist Charlie Sexton and an interesting version of the old Savoy Brown song "Train to Nowhere" was what initially got my attention.
It's tempting to automatically accept any effort from Charlie Musselwhite as exceptional. But his Sanctuary is quite an album, and his vocals and harp playing are strong and clear.
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on April 21, 2004
I have to say that I experienced "Sanctuary" rather than just listened to it. I am a huge fan of Charlie and I read reviews of the CD before I purchased it. The excellent reviews gave me high hopes and could have set me up for disappointment, but the following attests to how much I enjoy the experience of "Sanctuary."
The CD has 12 tunes that work together like 12 scenes in a drama. While each tune tells its own story, after listening to the CD in its entirety, you don't feel much different than you do at the end of a movie that tells a story about a person or a family and the ups and downs of their lives. So, yes, "Sanctuary" is a CD that you can play from start to finish without skipping a tune.
To blues fans and musicians, Charlie is an icon. On this CD he beautifully demonstrates the power and flexibility of the harmonica. On some tunes, the harp sounds like a traditional harmonica and on others, Charlie makes it sound like a violin or cello. When you add in Charlie's singing, you really connect with the feelings of "Sanctuary."
The most interesting thing to me about this CD is that experiencing it is a perfect example of the meaning of the second definition of the word sanctuary as found in Merriam Webster's online dictionary: a place of refuge and protection.
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on October 13, 2004
Listen to this album once. No, don't form any judgements yet, just listen. And then listen again. And again. See if this haunted, evocative world of midnight blues doesn't stick in your craw somewhere. That's the effect of veteran Chicago/Mississippi/Memphis harp player Charlie Musslewhite's latest effort, Sanctuary, will have on you. There are some first rate individual songs here, especially "Homeless Child," "My Road Lies in Darkness," and a fabulous cover of the Savoy Brown classic "Train to Nowhere," featuring the Blind Boys of Alabama, but mostly, the whole effort is greater than the sum of the parts. Musslewhite has the perfect voice for 3AM reflections with a glass of booze (or whatever), and Charlie Sexton's ringing guitar parts are first-class all the way. Great vocal tracks, but also incredible instrumentals, such as "Shadow People," "Alicia," and the harmonica-fest that is "Route 19". The album's total effect is at once troubling and eerily comforting, as Musslewhite clearly implies that the blues can be a sanctuary from problems, as well as a way to confront them. Purchase Sanctuary right away, and see if the shadow people don't pay you a visit some morning at 3AM.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on April 12, 2004
"Sanctuary" - Charlie Musselwhite
Real World Records - April 6, 2004
CD Review by Celeste - April 11, 2004
(Reprint of review for blues society.)
Sanctuary - holy place; shrine; the chancel, church or other place of protection for fugitives
Sanctuary Synonyms - refuge, home, haven, harbor, port, asylum, retreat, fortress, castle, shelter
Shelter - a place or structure giving protection; that which covers or defends; a place of refuge or asylum
Holy Week was an appropriate time for Charlie Musselwhite's new CD "Sanctuary" to be released. These are dark times that we live in and everyone needs sanctuary, in multiple forms, on various levels. Thank God for music! I'll tell you what I think about this CD, but don't wait, buy it today and listen to it for yourself (...) There are a number of interesting subtleties surrounding this CD. I don't know if it was a coincidence or not, but the day of the release, April 6th, happens to be the anniversary of Big Walter Horton's birthday. Something else I'll ask Charlie about in our upcoming interview, are the five symbols above the letters, the notation seems familiar to me somehow. Also, I wonder why his eyes appear on the publicity photos but not the CD jacket covers... what does this mean, does this mean anything? I can't be the only curious one. ;^}
The Sanctuary Band formed by Charlie Musselwhite ~ vocals and harmonica, Charlie Sexton ~ guitar and vocals, Jared Michael Nickerson ~ bass, and Michael Jerome ~ drums, definitely have a good groove going. They each played with great emotion on this recording. I particularly like the instrumental that the four wrote together, "Shadow People", I find it surreal, elastic, spooky and soothing simultaneously. The images invoked are vivid, looking over your shoulder, envisioning people in the shadows... the bass and drums intertwine as the harp and guitar float around, through and back again. Several others also have this "surreal feel" to them, "Snake Song" (by Thomas Van Zandt) and "The Neighborhood"(by Charlie Sexton). The rhythms are wonderful throughout this CD. I took an exceptional liking to the drums on Snake Song just as I did the harp on the second instrumental (song 9). "Alicia", (written by jazz saxophonist Eddie Harris), was certainly done justice by the band. And Charlie's harp interpretation of this song was simply beautiful... it is inspiring indeed to listen to the inspired. :^}
Back to the beginning, it's starts off with CM singing `Nowhere here to call my home, nobody near to call my own' in Ben Harper's "Homeless Child". Very nice slide guitar and vocals, backup singing and clapping, and yes, harp! (That's the first question that others seem to ask about the CD, is there much harp on it?) Why yes, yes, there is and Charlie is in fine form. ;^} In addition to his guest appearance on the first song, Ben Harper is also sitting in with the band on "Sanctuary", (written by Lee Breuer and Bob Telson). Although the title track is peaceful overall, it made me sad to hear Charlie singing of his final resting-place. (I lost four uncles and a good friend the Year of the Blues; though I am comforted that they are in a better place, it saddens me nonetheless.) They picked the beat right back up in the next song, "I Had Trouble" (by CM) It's difficult to articulate how blues can cheer you up but this song can explain what I cannot; it's one of my favorites as is Charlie's moving harp solo that follows it, "Route 19". Several special guests, The Blind Boys of Alabama, added their special touch to I Had Trouble and they also appeared on "Train To Nowhere" (by Chris Youlden and Kim Simmonds) `Yeaheaaaa, You better not ride'. (Watch your volume if you listen with headphones, you'll be humming and tapping louder than you think.)
One song that I've had fun jamming to at the end of a long, stressful day is Charlie's "My Road Lies In Darkness" ~ There's a long, long road, don't seem like it has an end... we can all relate to that. :^} I wasn't sure though what to make of the words in "Burn Down The Cornfield" (by Randy Newman), it's sultry, but slightly strange. "Shootin' For The Moon" (by Sonny Landreth) is faster with interesting lines too ~ `Crash landing in the Crescent City!'
There's a little bit of everything in these songs, many are blended, from blues to funk to alternative to jazz to rock. (It's a shame that music has to be `classified' as anything, as a friend says though, there is a purpose of labeling a genre, it's so the kid stocking the shelves will know where to put them.) I think that many people with various backgrounds and different tastes will enjoy this CD. I bought extra copies for family and friends, they arrived quickly, and seven received theirs at Easter dinner! :^} I highly recommend Sanctuary to everyone! I love this CD!
on May 20, 2015
Many forms here other than those of standard blues, perhaps too many. The album exploits Musselwhite's silky-smooth voice to good effect in 'Snake Song,' and makes fine use of a chorus of male voices (the Blind Boys?) on the 'Train to Nowhere'. There is much more menace in these songs (e.g., 'Neighborhood') than one usually finds in CM's work, and that's good. That's true too of 'My Road Lies in Darkness', which he did in an acoustic version on 'Ace of Harps'. I read somewhere that it was Ben Harper who wrote 'Homeless Child': if so, CM's got good taste, and if BH helped out in this version, that speaks well of CM too. So even though I prefer CM's voice to BH's, I think I'll take another look at their collaboration on 'Get Up'. 'Sanctuary' is definitely worth a listen.