I have to give respect to Ben Harper for a colorful cornucopia of reasons. Besides the obvious vocal and music talents of this native Cali boy, Ben Harper is badass enough to have married Laura Dern (the smart and sexy/nerdy Dr. Ellie Sattler in Jurassic Park), recorded on the album Songs for Tibet to accentuate the human rights situation there, which I have a high respect for. Celebs are finally using their power for good, and not just to get into the spotlight either, which I tip my hat to.
As I did the research for this article, I saw that Ben is nearly 40 years old. There's nothing wrong with that, it's just funny to me because every girl I know who listens to his music is half his age and wanting to have his children. The guy looks good for 40 though, not gonna lie.
And let's talk about his voice. I don't know who taught him how to sing, but Ben Harper knows what blues and folk rock are all about. Being a musician with a fine ear, Harper has brought many talented musicians to light on his albums, such as Blind Boys of Alabama, The Innocent Criminals, and most recently, Relentless7. Not to mention that thanks to Ben, Jack Johnson was discovered back in 1999 (this is news to me, but cool news).
The guy is all over the music scene, and I could go on, but let's get to the nitty of Mr. Harper's 13th album, White Lies for Dark Times. Released on Cinco de Mayo this year, Ben and the Relentless7 came out with something that is genuinely blues. Now, I admit, this is my first Harper cd, but not the last. This album has such high caliber that it's a wonder how I didn't get in on this secret before.
The Relentless7 was an amazing compliment to Ben here, with Jason Mozersky on the guitar, Jesse Ingalls on bass and the keys, and Jordan Richardson on the drums. You aren't dealing with amateur musicians here either. The instrumentals are tightly clipped and powerful for every note of the album. I know that might not make sense to the blues fans out there, but the quality of the record is such that you know that only professionals can make this happen. Although the entire album was spotless, I had some favorites that rubbed me the right way.
Boots Like These is the ninth track on the album, and it's just one of those songs that is prone to make the girls get up and shake it for the saloon. This is the kind of song I think of when I want to hear rock music. Even lyrically, he's talking about losing control and freeing himself from the torments of his hard life on the run. Like the song says, you've gotta live his life to get boots like his.
Up to You Now is my second favorite track. I think it's important to have a strong second track on an album because it sets the precedent for the rest of the album in a way. Intros don't cut it anymore, because I've fallen victim to the lie of a great intro, and lackluster remainder of a cd (hit singles notwithstanding). But the bass line to this sad but upbeat song made my head move back and forth like a rhythmic chicken towards the screen. Quite the juxtaposition. The breakdown at 2:45 was a welcome surprise before the quiet lingering at 3:23, and smooth transition to the vehement end of the track.
The muffled bass kick signals the beginning of my favorite track, good ol number 4, Lay There & Hate Me. Why is it the best? It's a combination of things. The instrumentals are groovy, with guitar lingering in the background, with funky bass and tight drum work (with discreet double actions mind you). But the keys also well rounded the instrumentals with a calm groove. Best of all though, are the Ben and the lyrics. This guy is on another level. Here's a snippet of a verse and the chorus:
Lay there and hate me lay there and burn. One side to the other you toss and turn.
Never trust a woman Never trust a woman who loves the blues.
Mistake number one I made it 3 times today. We best talk over how there's nothing left to say. I feel like an under paid concubine whose overstayed her welcome.
Chorus: You gave me an 8 paged letter front and black. Written in your favorite colors, blood and black.
You choose your words as careful as you choose your own gravestone. You lay there and hate me better than being alone.
Had to fight your way in you've got to fight your way out. Ain't no fool like the fool you love so let me hear you shout
Again everyone, I'm new to Ben Harper, and this album blew me away. I really feel like I can call myself a blues fan (modern blues anyhow), and it has become a welcome addition in my library. Hopefully the old fans will be as impressed as I was, and you new listeners will in turn hopefully want to collect his work like I will. I hope you've enjoyed this review, and also that you plan on going to see Ben in concert somewhere on his current U.S tour. I can hear the eggs dropping already ladies. Calm down.
Until next time my friends,