Ben Harper is a pinball machine, with the glittery lights of funk, the dinging sounds and clatter of soul, the self-expressive bumpers of folk, and the silver ball being the blues root of all his music. And when a new Harper album is coming out, Gump chimes in “you never know what you’re gonna get.”
Get Up! by Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite hassles you right off the bat. And these surRealReviews are complimentary to the musicians created work. They are intended to help you gain focus on the album, and feel the theoretical and abstract that is going on below the surface. I hope that you will read through this and immediately after, throw the album on, close your eyes and drift away. So hop in my el camino, as we head down to the The Blues Bar.
NOW STOP… Open this link in a new window, click play, and proceed to reading. –Thanks! The Management.
Walking in through the squeaky swinging saloon doors, the smell of rust and sweat are almost overwhelming, but Ben’s soothing growl, as he sings his heart out, catches you instantly. Then those honey filled harmonica notes seem to buzz around like flies on shit on a summer day. You nestle into the creaky worn stool.
Clop! Clop! The sound of two whiskey tins slammed down to the aged stained, wood grain bar top. As you take another toke from your stogie, and the smoke bellows out filling the already cloudy dark room, Charlie picks up blustering into his G key harmonica; Ben lets out a mollified sigh, much like the sound that squeaks out of your mouth with each cigar puff. Ben picks the notes he predestined himself to play, but to you they sound improvised, loose; they sound free. The inclusive darkness of the room has brought to light a sepia hue to your surroundings, and while this could all be an illusion of the eye, your body, mind, and soul now feels the blues.
Gloup-gloup-gloup, the sound of 100 proof Rittenhouse Whiskey. The ashes fall from your Cuban, and the chewed up floor from boots and spurs welcomes the ashes with ease. Ben is well into the rhythm, and his vocal cord moist with wear and tear as he belts, “you found another loves, I lost a friend.” Charlie’s harmonica and Ben’s guitar morph to the personalities of slave to slave, and they harken back to the call-and-response that united the cotton pickers. Sipping your whiskey, the deep warm sting gently burns your throat, and the words “I’m defenseless, repentless,” pierce a familiar spot in your heart. Drink some more in with “We can’t end this way.”
That’s where Charlie found Ben, on the cold lonesome nights, looking for a friend. And that is why they come here, to not play the blues, but to share the blues, to share the burden. Charlie comes in as a co-creator, guiding Ben’s blues into what we are looking for revitalization, recovery, redemption.
This album is not “Both sides of the Gun.” There is no “Morning Yearning” to make things feel all right. You may not find hope in the blues. But the blues is a collective conscience. The blues is a living organism asking you to contribute to what brings it life. You will be asked to find hope in each other’s trouble, to give and take from the community of the blues. And without Charlie, this album may have felt lonely, but those bittersweet harmonic rhythms enrich Ben’s story, his blues.