The last time we saw Ben Harper, it was in 2009 with his raucous, blues-driven Relentless7 putting out White Lies for Dark Times. If you’re looking for that same energy, my best advice is take heart the request of his return’s opening track. “Don’t Give Up On Me Now,” the song begs; sound advice, as its restrained manner is an inaccurate indicator of things to come.
For Give Till It’s Gone, Harper returns without one of his multiple bands behind him, splitting his time between slow ballads and hard-hitting rock tracks. The album is definitely more refined, lacking some of the gritty brutality that made White Lies great, but more often than not, it is simply a fantastic example of Harper doing what he does best, making music.
My favorite moment on the album comes roughly halfway through, as the upbeat and fun “Spilling Earth” literally spills into the next track, “Get There From Here.” It is very much a “blink and you’ll miss it” type of moment, as the songs fit together perfectly in a seamless transition. This makes sense, as the two songs were co-written in the studio by Harper and former Beatles drummer Ringo Starr. The result is a song that will not quit—a good thing, as you won’t want it to. The extended jam is faintly reminiscent of the legendary Liverpool foursome, taking you on a gentle journey that is well-crafted, engaging and fun.
Harper has said that this record is billed as a solo performance, as it cannot be easily differentiated what band is playing behind him. The truth is, it doesn’t matter. Harper is in top form, crafting songs that succeed lyrically and musically, capturing much of the blues-driven energy of White Lies while mixing in a delicate simplicity that adds a layer of depth to the bluesman’s latest effort.