Harper hits highs and lows

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Front Page - JAR­RAD BE­VAN

GIFTED slide gui­tar guru Ben Harper is back with an hon­est 10th al­bum.

The re­cent and very pub­lic break­down of his five-year mar­riage to ac­tress Laura Dern in­forms much of this grubby, emo­tional set.

Thank­fully, it’s not all de­pressed grum­bling and groan­ing. Harper of­ten rises above the mess to come off sound­ing de­fi­ant, per­haps even con­fi­dent, about a bet­ter fu­ture.

There’s a fine ex­am­ple of this on the cor­ner where moody meets an­gry, a tune called I Will Not be Bro­ken. It’s a sad but bril­liant mi­nor-key waltz where he croons his guts out and lets fly with his gui­tar.

This 11-song record is made up of mid-tempo rock­ers and con­fes­sional slow jams. It is most fun when Harper’s en­vi­able gui­tar chops are put front and cen­tre with a face-melt­ing solo.

In­spired by the le­gend Neil Young’s Rock ’ n’ Roll is Free, Harper and his crew de­liver ur­gent, free­wheel­ing, full-force, blis­ter­ing rock-blues.

On the raw Dirty Lit­tle Lover, his anger re­veals its ugly head again but Harper’s well con­sid­ered, tightly writ­ten lyrics al­low the song to make the jump from bit­ter to in­tense.

Al­though pri­mar­ily a rock al­bum, it crosses a bunch of gen­res like blues, folk and soul.

Harper’s soul search­ing is put on hold for two songs with Bea­tle Ringo Starr. The drum­mer makes a con­sid­er­able im­print on the stan­dard Harper sound pal­let, push­ing him into new ter­ri­to­ries with ex­cel­lent re­sults.

These two songs are pro­grammed one af­ter the other on the track­list and they make up 11 of the best min­utes on Give Till It’s Gone.

It starts with Spilling Faith, a very Bea­tles-like song. It’s ev­ery­thing you’d imag­ine a Bea­tles v Harper battle would sound like. How­ever, Spilling Faith is eclipsed by its sis­ter tune – the far more am­bi­tious and loose in­stru­men­tal Get There From Here.

It’s noisy and bold and sounds like it may have been com­pletely im­pro­vised. This is the best use of each player’s con­sid­er­able tal­ents.

Pray That Our Love Sees the Dawn fea­tures suc­cu­lent vo­cals by Amer­i­can singer-song­writer Jack­son Browne, no sur­prise re­ally as the al­bum was recorded in guess whose stu­dio?

Give Till It’s Gone is an al­bum of highs and lows. Harper wal­lows in de­spair one minute and then kicks some butt the next, of­ten with a heady lap steel gui­tar solo.

Harper spent last year work­ing with Joseph Arthur and Ge­orge Har­ri­son’s son Dhani as Fist­ful of Mercy. This year he is back to do­ing what he does best.

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