Missed Music

Music you didn’t know you needed…until now.

Tried and true blues rock from Ben Harper

I have a friend who once expressed the belief that Ben Harper is the guitarist who represents my generation, in the way that Jimi Hendrix represented those who came of age in the 1960s. At the time I thought he was a little caught up in the moment (we were at a show) and thought little of it. As I have watched and listened to Harper over the years, though, I must admit I am coming around to his point of view.

Harper is an amazing and prolific talent who has released no fewer than 14 albums. His songs feature honest, insightful lyrics that express emotions, characterize complex relationships, or just tell stories. He is comfortable in a variety of styles both somber and raucous, though his work is often rooted in blues. He is passionate about peace and helping your fellow man. Oh, and he plays the shellac off of his guitars.

He seems extremely cool, too. I’ve seen him live many times. He often sets up a big comfy chair on an area rug, particularly when he’s playing a lap slide guitar. He’s fit, well dressed, and he’s got more ink than Hewlett-Packard. We could do worse for a spokesman.

That's racist, man.

I first got into Harper in 1997 when I picked up his 3rd album, “The Will to Live.” It’s a fantastic album, and I will write that one up another day. Today, though, I want to recommend his newest studio release, “White Lies for Dark Times.” I will admit a few of the tracks on this disc felt a little flat to me. Some of these are ground he’s already covered and they don’t shine. On the other hand, “White Lies” is also full of songs that are masterfully crafted by an accomplished performer and songwriter. If you’re not already a fan, you might want to start with some of his older albums like, “Will to Live,” “Fight for Your Mind,” or “Welcome to the Cruel World” to get an idea where he’s coming from. Or you could start with this one. It’s good. If you are already a fan, you will be glad you gave this one a spin. Harper is not standing still. He’s moving forward and he still delivers. In particular, check out these songs.

  • Number With No Name – In some ways this is typical of some of Harper’s angrier, more accusatory songs. It still has a freshness to it, though, as Harper’s sound continues to evolve. The chord progression surprises just enough, too.
  • Lay There and Hate Me – OK, this one IS one of Harper’s darker, accusatory songs. It has some great lyrics in it. “Never trust a woman. Never trust a woman who loves the blues.” The arrangement is fairly complicated, with backing vocals, variable percussion, and layers of guitar, among other accents.
  • Fly One Time – Harper gives us an odd kind of rocking ballad, full of longing. The guitar work and percussion are pretty simple, but it is an appealing pop song. It reminds me a little bit of Kings of Leon, actually, which is odd coming from Harper. I like it, though.
  • Keep It Together (So I Can Fall Apart) – More honest, lyrical genius wrapped around a smoking hot guitar performance. How many songs of this quality can one guy write?

A final piece of advice. Go see Ben Harper when he comes to your town. Or, if he isn’t coming to your town, go to where he’s going to be. He puts on a tremendous show.



December 16, 2010 - Posted by | Blues, Rock

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