Ben Harper’s latest release, Get Up! is both one of his finest releases to date and one of the best new albums of 2013. Playing the blues is nothing new to Harper. Much of the work that he has churned out throughout his career boasts an obvious blues influence. This includes his 2004 collaboration with the famed Blind Boys of Alabama, There Will Be a Light. Next to that record, this most recent release is the only other time that Harper has gone full blown blues. Of course without fellow musician Charlie Musswelwhite on board for the project, it might never have gotten off the ground. Thankfully though, it did. And because it did fans of both Ben Harper and the Blues have an album that is one of those rare albums that can be enjoyed from start to finish without skipping even one song.
Get Up! opens in impressive form with the mid-tempo song, ‘Don’t Look Twice.’ This is a modern blues classic both in its lyrical and musical side. It’s a song that reminds listeners their woes aren’t as someone else’s. Harper sings to his listeners, “If your ship hasn’t come in/Don’t’ have a problem with the shore/If you’re locked out of your house/Don’t’ have a problem with your door/The dice are no man’s mistress/Black diamond snake moan/Wake up in the morning/Honey I’ll be gone.” He’s telling listeners, don’t blame one thing for something else happening. He’s saying that some things are just uncontrollable. While it may sound like some sort of inspirational speech, it shows that the blues don’t have to be sad to be enjoyed even when the music boasts a classic, slower twelve-bar style. They can be uplifting in different ways whether it is through those sad, slow songs or through something with a little bit more fire to them. For that reason, this song makes for a proper opener.
Where ‘Don’t Look Twice’ leaves off, the album’s next song, ‘I’m In I’m Out and I’m Gone’ picks right back up. This song has more of a classic Chicago blues sound about it. Musselwhite’s harmonica playing is wonderfully countered by Jesse Ingalls’ steady bass line and Jordan Richardson’s complimentary time keeping on snare. The trio comes together with Harper’s vocals to make another song that is a modern classic. Its lyrical side makes it just as interesting. It really shows the link between the blues and gospel music as he sings verses that are more gospel than blues. He sings, “You gotta answer to somebody/If you didn’t learn/Then you didn’t read/Gotta live with it/What’s a man to do/Gotta answer to somebody.” It is very much the spiritual song. But its ability to mix two genres so seamlessly makes it one more of so many highlights that show up throughout this impressive opus.
Get Up! offers listeners so many impressive songs from the opening moments of ‘Don’t Look Twice’ to ‘I’m In I’m Out I’m Gone’ to the much slower closer, ‘All That Matters Now.’ That song echoes blatant hints of Muddy Waters musically speaking. It instantly conjures images of a smoky, dimly lit blues club. And even Harper’s vocals are so akin to that of a young Muddy Waters. What’s ironic about the song is that just as with the album’s opener, the music is old school, twelve-bar blues but the lyrics are actually quite uplifting. Harper is singing here that while things are so tough, his subject is still happy because he has that special someone. He sings, “It’s been a long hard day/And a long hard night/Been a hard year/It’s been a hard life/But we’re together/And that’s all that matters now…Been thrown by the wind/Drowned in the rain/I walked through some things/You don’t want me to explain/But we’re together/And that’s all that matters now.” There’s just something magical about that mix of music and lyrics. Whether it’s just the feel of the two combined or something else, it taps into the very soul of the blues, just like so many other songs on this new record. It’s one more part of the whole that makes this record one of the year’s best and one of the best that Ben Harper has ever released. It is available now in stores and online and can be purchased via Ben Harper’s official website at http://www.benharper.biz/getup.html and via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Get-Up-Deluxe-CD-DVD/dp/B009ICQ6KO/?tag=conmusgro-20. It can also be downloaded via iTunes. Harper’s European fans will get the chance to see him this Summer as he tours across the continent and into South America. His European tour kicks off July 3rd in Pistoia, Italy and wraps September 20th in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. Ben Harper fans can get all of the latest tour updates and news from him online at http://www.facebook.com/benharper and http://www.benharper.com.
To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.