Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite
- June 29, 2018 - Showtime: 8:00pm
Ben Harper and Charlie Mussewhite make a triumphant return to the Festival after their sellout show in 2014. Charlie Musselwhite and Ben Harper were introduced to one another by John Lee Hooker. The legendary musician thought the two men should play together, so he brought them into the studio to record a song called simply “Burnin' Hell.” The two remained friends and their paths periodically crossed out there on the road. But it wasn’t until 2013 that the two met up in a studio to record what would be their Grammy-winning album Get Up!. And as good as that record was, it was just the beginning. They both agree that their friendship deepened in the many months of touring that followed. And it’s that bond, that closeness, that makes their new record No Mercy In This Land something special.
At first glance, Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite might seem an unlikely pairing. While Ben grew up in in the tree-lined Southern California college town of Claremont, a bastion of culture and liberalism just east of Los Angeles, Charlie was raised in Memphis during the time of rockabilly and Sun Records.
Decades later in Southern California, Ben grew up literally surrounded by music. His grandparents had opened the Folk Music Center in 1958 as a music store and impromptu gathering place for a thriving folk music scene. Artists like Brownie McGhee, Sonny Terry, Doc Watson, John Fahey, The New Lost City Ramblers and others were known to drop by and play. Ben’s mother Ellen was a folk singer and his dad Leonard a talented musician as well. Ben worked at the family music store. He learned how to repair and build instruments, became masterful player and gifted songwriter, and eventually a Grammy-winning artist and producer of worldwide acclaim. And just like Charlie, Ben put in hours at local used record stores, scavenging for old blues, hip-hop and punk records. “I was raised around all those crazy instruments and records and people who could play at the highest level,” he says. “But I'm old enough to have been a record bin diver. And the fact that both Charlie and I were seeking, not only blues, but music with that same emotion and intensity, that is the thread right there.”