Album review: Ben Harper collaborates with Charlie Musselwhite for new spin on folk in 'Get Up!'
Published: Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 22:01
The match between Ben Harper and renowned harmonica player Charlie Musselwhite might be one of the best musical collaborations since Beyoncé and Jay-Z.
“Get Up!” continues Harper’s gritty, gospel tones, but this time with a different spin on Americana. His album with Musselwhite takes on a sadder, more melancholy nature.
Paired with Musselwhite’s harmonica skills, Harper’s music becomes almost visual, pulling at your senses. Because of this pictorial aspect joined with Harper’s raspy vocals, the songs create more than just an audio experience.
“We Can’t End This Way” takes a different approach to beat with clapping replacing the usual drums. By adding female gospel singers into the background, Harper effectively continues the back-to-the-roots tone the rest of the song has. The track ended with a slightly unexpected guitar solo, which could have been melded into the song better.
Punchier and harder hitting, “I Don’t Believe A Word You Say” is the strongest song on the album. The fourth track is a bluesy rock song with heavy vocals. Harper doesn’t get tangled up in the Hendrix-esque guitar solo either, and it gives the song a vintage twist.
“You Found Another Lover (I Lost Another Friend)” slams Harper back to basics with just a twangy guitar and Musselwhite’s harmonica for instrumentals. Riddled with a tangible pain and heartache you can feel, the track walks the road of a hurt lover.
Striking a more eerie note with “I Ride At Dawn,” the prominent bass line gives the entire track a slower, almost creepy sentiment.
Heavy distortion rattles through “Blood Side Out,” and adds to the gritty feeling of blues-rock the whole album works up.
The title track “Get Up!” is the longest of all the songs at more than six minutes. The extended solos show off the years of experience both Harper and Musselwhite have racked up.
At times the lyrics are a bit repetitive, but that might be the album’s only downfall. Harper is a refreshing step away from folk music that is too bogged down in heavy banjos. With the help of Musselwhite, Harper steps into the foggy middle ground between folk and hard blues and adds rock and reggae undertones.