Ben Harper’s Groove

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Harper and his band recorded Lifeline, which has been called an “acoustic-soul stunner� by Rolling Stone, in just seven days in a Paris studio right after a nine month European tour.


If you’re like I am and you mainly listen to music for the stories and poetry then Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals’ latest release Lifeline is a must-have for your collection. 

On the other hand, listeners like my husband who prize instruments over lyrics will want to know—does the band groove?  And the answer is a resounding yes.

Harper and his band recorded Lifeline, which has been called an “acoustic-soul stunner” by Rolling Stone, in just seven days in a Paris studio right after a nine month European tour.  They recorded straight to tape using a 16-track analog tape machine.

Strictly old school.  It’s like hearing a live album.  No tricks, no computer generated sounds, no loops.  While it’s a rare occurrence on today’s musical landscape Lifeline lets us know that the concept of a band is still very much alive. 

“I’m glad we did the record this way,” says Harper.  “It was basically the band and I taking a bunch of ideas that were eventually going to turn into songs, throwing them out on the table and saying ‘okay, this is how far these are to this point, let’s collectively make them better.’”

Lifeline is Harper’s 9th full-length album.  His major label debut, Welcome to the Cruel World, was released in 1994.  Like most of Harper’s work, no two songs on Lifeline are alike. The 11 tracks range from ballads, to blues to soul yet shared themes of hope, authenticity, and love are found throughout.

It isn’t unusual for the band to be on the road for over 200 days a year and Harper likens Lifeline to a traveling musician’s journal.  “It’s like what’s going on in the mind of anyone who’s in the wind, where traveling musicians are.  We were going on ten months touring in a year by the time we drug ourselves into that studio.”

Born to a musical family, Harper says it’s always been his dream to make a record in Paris.  “I’ve always had a love affair with Paris; I’ve always been fascinated with it, by it, from it, for it.  It has always spoken to me in a specific way.”
Shortly after the release of Lifeline on August 28, Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals began their first ever seated tour which includes such legendary venues as New York’s Radio City Music Hall (September 15) Atlanta’s Fox Theatre (November 2) and Oakland’s Paramount Theatre (November 10). 

The band will also make appearances on Late Night with Conan O’Brien on September 21 and The Late Show with David Letterman on October 1.  On a personal note, that’s how I discovered Ben Harper, years ago while watching late night TV.  I was flicking through the stations when quite by accident I came across Harper singing “Steal My Kisses” from his Burn to Shine album and playing the heck out of a guitar.  I knew then he was a musician to watch.  

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