Friday, February 8, 2013

Get Up!

Get up for the first OUTSTANDING album of 2013! Is there ever anything Ben Harper touches that doesn't turn to gold? He's always been a grade-A student of the blues; taking tradition, infusing it with his own sensibilities, and churning out something fresh. This collaboration with legendary blues harmonica player, Charlie Musselwhite, is already one for the ages. The last time they worked together was over fifteen years ago, with John Lee Hooker. I'm vaguely familiar with Musselwhite; I first heard about him when I was watching the Blues Brothers 2000 film, where at the end he jammed with many other highly influential blues & soul musicians. To say his harp playing complements Ben Harper's singing is a kinda understatement. He brings the music to a new high. The harmonica doesn't try to upstage the vocals, nor does the vocals and everything else try to upstage the harmonica. Both fit together like a glove; case in point -- songs like the opening Don't Look Twice to the unplugged You Found Another Lover and to the closer, All That Matters Now, the perfect blend of guitar, piano and harp. Musselwhite comes in when he sees fit, and he knows EXACTLY when the right time is, and when he does he dances around the rhythm section like how a flame dances on a fireplace. This is a classic blues record that contains quite a bit of political and social overtones in the lyrics, and the blues comes in various forms: there's Delta blues, there's Chicago blues, gospel blues, rock & roll blues, R&B blues, slow-burning blues. It makes sense that it's on the Stax label. The most unique is the title track, because the bass lines are brought way upfront, which is quite unusual. But I love the way Ben's slide guitar and Charlie's harp solos weave in and out of each other. It's obvious these songs were recorded live, and they should sound great live. Will be seeing Ben next month for the third time, and he's also bringing Charlie along for the ride.