In the exclusive clip below, blues legend Musselwhite and his spiritual successor Harper perform the lead track “No Mercy In This Land” in a single live take. The video, directed by J. Garcia, provides an intimacy to the raw acoustic performance and visceral lyrics from Musselwhite’s deeply personal experience of grappling with his mother’s murder.
“Every time I hear ‘No Mercy,’ it is like the first time,” Musselwhite tells Billboard. “This is as good as blues gets.”
The piece was recorded at the Machine Shop studio in Santa Monica, CA, with Relentless7 members Jason Mozersky and Jesse Ingalls on guitar and bass respectively, and frequent touring partner Jimmy Paxson on drums. The environment proved inviting for such a reflective and honest song, which Harper credits to Garcia’s masterful eye for capturing the moment behind the camera.
“[Garcia] designed the studio and made it comfortable for Charlie, myself and the band,” Harper recalls. “Though in a studio setting, there were some family and friends there, and I’ve always felt it’s harder to play in front of 20 people than it is 200 or 2,000, because it’s so intimate.”
Through it all, the duo creates a thrilling performance that melds Harper’s unique slide guitar with Musselwhite’s signature harmonica along both of their purely soulful vocal deliveries.
Regarding the private performance, Harper teases, “This taping captures the first time Charlie and I have played this song live since recording it, and serves as a window into the album.”
No Mercy In This Land marks the second collaboration between the two following their first shared effort, the Grammy-winning album Get Up! in 2013. The album is available for pre-order here and will coincide with a joint tour beginning in late March in San Francisco. Tour details can be found on Harper’s website here.
Check out the video for Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite’s acoustic rendition of “No Mercy In This Land,” exclusively on Billboard, below.