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Ben Harper / Blind Boys of Alabama
EQUIPMENT: Weissenborn, Cole Clark Violap, Justin Saine lap slide, Asher lap slide, Maton acoustic, Fender electric, Ibanez TS-808 pedal, Vox Wah-Wah, RMC Wah-Wah, Electro Harmonix Smallstone Delay, Ibanez Phase Shifter, Seymour Duncan Mag Mic Pickup
IN THE CD PLAYER: Stereophonics, John Coltrane "My Favorite Things", Coldplay
WEB SITE: www.benharper.net

introducing the Blind Boys of Alabama:
When The Blind Boys of Alabama open their mouths to sing, what comes out is older than salvation, older than redemption. It is the sound of oppression and struggle. It is the sound of revelation and liberation. It is a sound as old as time. The Blind Boys of Alabama are the pyramids of gospel music; the birthplace of sacred soul.
The three original members of the group, (which started out in 1939, as The Five Blind Boys Of Alabama) Clarence Fountain, Jimmy Carter, and George Scott, are all in their mid to late seventies and are all completely blind. Jimmy and George blind from birth, and Clarence, the group's founder, from around age five. His stepmother tried to cure his eye infection with a "home remedy" and blinded him for life.

I have now spent a considerable amount of time with all of them, and I know for certain, they see what we won't, they see what we don't, and they see what we can't. It is an honor to be in their presence and to know they are my friends. I thank them for the singing lessons, and more importantly I thank them for teaching me that blessings are a privilege, not a birthright, and are never to be taken for granted.

What started out as me working with them on a couple of tracks, blossomed and bloomed into an entire record in eight days. It all happened so fast. If it weren't for the recordings that prove that this magic actually happened, I would not be entirely aware of what went on.

-Ben Harper

One cannot simply classify the raw appeal of Ben Harper. He is a musician, an artist, and an individualist. Whether it's through the soul dances of southern Gospel, 70s funk or electric blues, Harper maintains a stance for a simple beauty.

For nearly ten years, Harper and his trademark Weissenborn guitar have been a saving grace in the capriciousness of corporate rock & roll. He never signed on to be a savior, but his modest approach in writing music takes on a life of its own. He's an explosive, energetic live performer. He's a flawless studio hound who's self-absorbed in each song.

Harper has been on television and radio but has become a star because of the people –word of mouth has spread his music around the globe. The grassroots way of doing this rock thing has worked quite well for him and that's why Harper does what he does. He makes music for the people, people who are aware of the world's greater goals and unimpressed by political mediocrity. Harper knows he can make a difference with his music, but his fans carry him along so the message can be heard. Starting in 1994, Harper has made four studio records: Welcome to the Cruel World (1994); Fight For You Mind (1995); The Will to Live (1997); Burn to Shine (1999); and one live album Live From Mars (2001). Diamonds on the Inside is Harper's sixth chapter in his continuing testimonial.

His fifth studio effort is heavy, funk-laden with folky textures that have never sounded better. But at its core is a songwriter of uncommon sincerity. What's made him an international favorite all these years is his talent to compose the good, the bad and the ugly of a spiritual inquisition. Alongside him are The Innocent Criminals – bassist Juan Nelson, percussionist Leon Lewis Mobley and drummer Oliver Charles – the four-piece derives a charismatic, emotional set of songs that are Harper's most comprehensive to date.

"With My Own Two Hands" is a feel-good groove with hints of Marley-esque reggae. Harper fights the good fight with a sharp falsetto and accompanying him is keyboardist Greg Kurstin (Geggy Tah, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Flaming Lips, Beck). Kurstin and Harper are a tight pair throughout Diamonds Fields on the Inside and together, they showcase an alluring musical palate.

Seeking the wisdom of a higher power is constant in Harper's music and undoubtedly quite thematic throughout the new album. Handcrafted acoustics soar around Harper's holy thoughts in "Amen Omen," asking, "Will I see your face again?" He moves towards worldbeat chimes of Africa for "Picture of Jesus. The famous Ladysmith Black Mambazo ten-man choir joins Harper on this near six-minute hymn.

"Touch From Your Lust" is a hazy dreamscape; Harper's sultry side writhes between searing guitar riffs and pulsating bass lines. He's lyrically haunting and it's a stunning rock moment, making "Touch From Your Lust" a classic. "Bring the Funk" bridges on Harper's signature funk vibe he and Nelson create while the title track and "When She Believes" lay low with wispy vocal edges. "Diamonds on the Inside," in particular, hits an inner cord – Harper transforms that self-doubting thread inside all of us on this country-rock nugget and he's poetically sweet in doing so.

Ben Harper is a road hound. He typically plays 150 shows a year and records material during bus rides and sound checks. This time around, Harper took a rest. His body and mind needed time to rejuvenate. He wanted to make an album without the demands of being on tour. Diamonds on the Inside is a testament to his will and patience. It will quench the thirst of devotees and convert those tasting Harper's brew for the first time.

-MacKenzie Wilson

--- from the official Ben Harper / Blind Boys of Alabama website

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Ben Harper / Blind Boys of Alabama
There Will Be A Light

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