Ben Harper’s music goes hand in hand with the summertime. His well-worn lyrics, funky shape-shifting grooves, and jam-band tendencies provide the perfect soundtrack for the pool, the beach, road trips, and outdoor festivals. Given a mid-May release date, his new effort, Give Till It’s Gone is sure to keep Harper a warm weather fan favorite as he trots the globe introducing this new set of songs to anxious listeners. Harper, who we’ve seen recently super-group style with Dhani Harrison and Joseph Arthur in A Fistful of Mercy, brings back his Relentless 7 band mates: Jason Mozersky on guitar, Jesse Ingalls on bass and keys, and Jordan Richardson on drums. Continuing on a partnership formed in late 2008, the band has a tightened, lived-in feel on this record as the songs punch along with purpose, alternating between searing stadium anthems and Harper’s devastatingly heartrending ballads. Here, “Rock and Roll is Free” and “Dirty Lover” fit the former, while Harper’s winsome falsetto captures the latter in “Feel Love”, a song destined to make its way into romantic comedy film scenes and television series promos for the next few years.
The album also tips its hat to other rock genres, notably, the Ryan Adams, alt-country tinged opener, “Don’t Give Up On Me Now” and the ‘90’s throwback, “Clearly Severely”. Best of all, though, is the mid-album punch of “Spilling Faith” and “Get There From Here”. Although listed as separate tracks, these two songs blend seamlessly together, in an explosive concoction of funk, blues, and rock that lasts nearly 11 minutes, the last six of which jam on gloriously in a locked-in trance of fury. It’s a bit reminiscent of The Beatles, Traffic, Allman Brothers, and Widespread, but still distinctly something you’d expect from Harper, a master a putting his personal edge to the classics. Harper has always sounded best live, and the main positive of this new album is the authentic feel it has. It sounds exactly like what it is: 4 dudes banging out a rock record and having a helluva time at it. The listener can close his/her eyes and picture the band up on stage tearing things up and going at it. And as the album closing rocker, “Do It For You, Do It For Us” comes grinding to a halt, you can almost hear the crowd roaring its approval.