2007 was a year of firsts for me. That's the year I joined the Blues Foundation, so it's the first time I got to vote for the Blues Music Awards. That's the year I was introduced to Nick Moss & The Flip Tops and Watermelon Slim & The Workers. It's the year I first listened to Charlie Musselwhite whose Delta Highway earned my vote as the Album of the Year, an honor he went on to win.
After a couple years' absence, I have returned to the Blues Foundation and am working hard to have my ballot ready by the end of this month. Musselwhite isn't nominated for anything this year but my return to the ranks of the voters coincides with another big moment for him as it was announced this week he will enter the Blues Hall of Fame.
Over the past three years, I've spent countless hours listening to Delta Hardware and the other Musselwhite albums I've collected. I don't know how long he's been eligible for induction. This may have been the first time he's come up. It doesn't matter. The man is overdue.
I had a lot of favorite songs on that album and one of them was this cover of an old Little Walter classic "Just a Feeling." Little Walter set such an impossibly high standard for blues harmonica. There are plenty of artists audacious enough to try him but few who can actually pull it off. For most of them you want to say "Don't try this at home." Musselwhite, in case you're curious, does just fine. He took a very different direction with the arrangement, giving an intense, ferocious muscular performance.
2007 was a watershed moment for me. It opened my eyes and made me see the blues is not a historical music to be enjoyed in the past tense. It's a music with a tradition and a past that continues to live on through great talents who carry that torch and push the music forward in new directions. Congratulations, Charlie. Bravo.