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Ben Harper and Relentless7

White Lies for Dark Times
Three stars
EMI
Key Tracks: ‘Shimmer and Shine,’ ‘Up To You Now’

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Neha Sharma Jun 21, 2009
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Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals, with all that bittersweet acoustic twang and emotional sap, as endearing as it was, could get cloying not only for the listener but Harper himself. With White Lies for Dark Times he rips his insides out and bares them with little reserve, he steps out of his solitary cabin in the woods and steps into a rundown warehouse allowing the Relentless7 to steer his ride. This album marks the debut of the Texas-based band, and as much as they inspire the roar in Harper, the intrinsic quality of his vocals isn’t overwhelmed by the heavy drive on instrumentation. Harper’s gritty garage rock keeping time with his blues signatures is rewarding. The crisp opener ”˜Number with No Name’ is spunky blues on a grunge skewer while Harper slow-roasts the raw composition with his fiery vocals. The blues are followed through on ”˜Lay there & Hate Me.’ ”˜Up to You Now’ echoes sonic resonance, with Harper’s gullet riding high on sentiment (“while your world is under attack/It’s all up to you now/I stumble to your altar/With my knees bent my head bowed”), his quivering vocals quickly sear into a cathartic realm. With the wicked snap on the bass and grimy guitar tone ”˜Shimmer and Shine’ makes for one of the heaviest tracks. Halfway into the album, Harper takes a breather and steps into his minimalist soulful element, ”˜Skin Thin’ would be like ”˜Another Lonely Day’ for this one, with the exception of a bleeding solo. So here’s Harper telling us he knows how to rock the casbah, and we believe him.

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