Ben Harper isn’t just one of the greatest singer/songwriters of our generation…he’s also the most profound and prolific. The man with more bands and side projects than Rolling Stone and Beatle frontmen combined is truly on the great form that began his classic career. It only seems like yesteryear that his latest solo set (Give ‘Till It’s Gone) proved to be just as great as his best individual work (see Both Sides of the Gun, Diamonds on the Inside, Fight for Your Mind and The Will to Live). Now the man who has many great live albums and soundtrack contributions to his credit adds another collaboration to his list of groups, an honour roll that features The Innocent Criminals, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Relentless7 and the group Fistful of Mercy, and some incredible, inspired records.
The man who even released a greatest hits ballad retrospective (By My Side) with the single Crazy, Amazing last year, is showing no slowing signs. Teaming up with blues legend Charlie Musselwhite, Harper gives us yet another Get Up! The beautiful blues, slow burner Don’t Look Twice begins this dynamic double act, before things heat up with a bang on I’m In, I’m Out and I’m Gone, a straight whiskey-strong joint with little chaser. It all goes down smoothly and soulfully.
Exploring and traversing new blues landscapes, Ben’s slides and glides with Charlie, who rides shotgun on harmonica, provide the perfect backdrop for Harper to lay new musical groundwork. The chorus pleading of the down-but-not-out nature of We Can’t End This Way gives our singer his new classic, while you can be certain to have faith in the wonderful writing of the single I Don’t Believe a Word You Say. The excellent word-smith who knows how to turn a lyrical phrase is still on top of his wonderful wordplay.
As Ben hauntingly hums ‘I sit here in a daze/Wishing I could change my ways/And let’s not pretend it isn’t what it is/Its time we both go on and live”. You Found Another Lover (I Lost Another Friend) is another sensational single example of this, lamenting the unfair war of love and loss of friendship. It all ties together like this new perfect partnership for the generation gap’s ages. The artistic mix of this couple mirrors the black and white album artwork, splashed with colour. The traditional texture of the music transcends. It’s classic music for the new ages. I Ride at Dawn swings straight out of the saloon of a classic Western. The album’s darkest and best could have earned its spurs on the Django Unchained soundtrack.
Blood Side Out paints more dark and decadent themes (‘Got a wine soaked heart/And whisky soaked lips/Don’t know how to get to you/But I know how to get my kicks’) for the lyrical genius who once sang ‘you wrote me a four page letter, front and back/wrote in your favorite colors, blood and black”.
The title track Get Up sees the pair get down even further as Charlie mussels in with some epic scores that help bring out the harp-like beauty of Ben’s slides across the strings. More guitar punch comes with the She Got Kick boot-cut, boot-strapped classic on an album that harks back to The Will to Live days. The Paris, Sunrise evocation of the instrumental beginnings of All That Matters Now is all you need to end this epic album perfectly. As Ben Harper forms another great group with Charlie Musselwhite, he gives rhyme to the reasoning that here lies another collaborative project that the versatile singer should expand on. Like all his other groups, we hope and wait for another album. The question now, however, is ‘whatever next?’