Ben Harper - Both Sides Of The Gun

With the two-disc BOTH SIDES OF THE GUN, singer/songwriter Ben Harper appears hell-bent to play havoc with listeners' expectations. For those who thought blues-rock was a relic of the 1970s, abandoned to rot amid worn-out Foghat riffs, Harper presents a compelling argument to the contrary on the set's first disc. Instead of jacking up traditional blues forms in a clich├ęd way, though, Harper applies a blues sensibility to the rock vocabulary, coming up with something that feels new in the process. The emotive howl of his vocals and the from-the-gut moans of his guitar bespeak a musician schooled in Zeppelin and Hendrix but ultimately closer to Jeff Buckley at his most frenetic. The raw, gritty production lends an appropriately in-your-face quality as well. The second disc further messes with one's preconceptions. It's a quiet, acoustic-oriented affair wherein Harper seems to channel vintage Cat Stevens. In fact, there are spots where his singing sounds eerily similar to that of the British folk-rocker. Where the first disc's songs feel full of anger and social consciousness, the vulnerable ballads occupying the second are largely wistful and romantic, operating on a more personal scale. As different as they are, BOTH SIDES OF THE GUN are just as formidable in Harper's hands.
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