Ben Harper with Charlie Musselwhite ‘Get up!’ (Stax) 4/5

Multi-faceted singer-songwriter and guitarist Ben Harper has incorporated acoustic folk, soul, reggae and rock elements into his music and for this latest project has decided to explore the blues which is a logical step on from his much lauded collaborative project with gospel legends, the Blind Boys of Alabama. To add some seasoned credibility to proceedings, Harper has enlisted the support of southern blues harmonica player and leader in his own right, Charlie Musselwhite. Within the blues terrain there is some variety with the folk-blues and soulful electric blues songs working best whereas the blues-rock numbers are somewhat less successful. Bassline grooves are to the fore on the rhythm section propelled title track and on the excellent ‘I ride at dawn’ which features a signature bass that is reminiscent of the Philadelphia All Stars ‘Let’s clean up the ghetto’. Of the rootsier tracks, the pared down instrmuentation of ‘You found another lover (I lost another friend)’ is a real winner and Harper’s vocals sound akin to the early 1970s work of Al Green. Even more soulful with gospel hues, lovely female vocal harmonies and some neat slide guitar from the lead vocalist is ‘We can’t end this way’ whose lyrics have relevant and contemporary social meaning. Where Ben Harper does get a little bogged down is on the blues-rock territory’ such as ‘I’m in I’m out and I’m gone’. This simply sounds mundane in comparison to the rest and there is such an abundance of this kind of material out there on the live blues circuit that Harper would be better served focusing on what distingushes him from the rest. That caveat aside, mark this down as one of the duet albums of the year and a totally authentic slice of contemporary blues. Tim Stenhouse

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