10.24.12 Ben Harper adds new chapter to narrative (Herald Sun article)
Ben Harper adds new chapter to narrative
From: National Features
October 25, 201212:22PM
BEN Harper is buzzing. His voice bursts down the line with the one-two punch of bonhomie and conviviality you get when talking with a mate you haven't caught up with for a while.
He just sounds happy. Happy he is travelling the globe in solo mode and somewhat amused he has two albums coming out within a few months of each other.
One is the obligatory end-of-contract greatest hits-with-a-twist By My Side on EMI and the other is his 12th studio record, a collaboration with blues legend Charlie Musselwhite called Get Up!, which will be released on Stax Records in January.
He's back in Australia next month to continue his solo acoustic tour and returns again as one of the headliners of the 2013 Byron Bay Bluesfest, a place he has long called his musical home here.
But first, he ticks off another career milestone for every Australian musician and one international artists covet - a date with the Sydney Opera House. Four sold-out gigs at one of the few joints he hasn't played here.
"Can you imagine? It feels surreal to me," he says.
The solo tour echoes the early days of any blues-rooted artist's career, building an audience and then promoting your recorded wares armed with an acoustic guitar and a voice that erupts from the gut and the heart simultaneously.
A privileged clutch of Australian fans enjoyed one of those transcendent gigs when he played at the intimate Independent Theatre in North Sydney in 2001 for Triple J's Live At The Wireless during his second tour. The cheering and clapping was euphoric and the tears flowed when a second chair was placed beside him and his mate Eddie Vedder walked on stage to join him to sing Indifference.
Getting back to just Harper and a guitar has written another chapter in his enviable musical manifesto.
"I am kicking myself I waited this long to go solo acoustic," he says.
"It was either start a fourth band or bring it back home."
Home isn't always easy and realising a raft of his repertoire in the desired mode required intensive rehearsal.
Harper's gut dictated which songs would lend themselves best to the man and his guitar treatment but only trial and error both on and off stage would validate his instinct.
"I have been rehearsing my butt off, working and stretching out on the instruments I love," he says.
Reviews of the US shows have noted a gallery of acoustic guitars alongside vibraphones, ukuleles, a tobacco-sunburst Stratocaster, an upright piano, a National steel, an electric Telecaster and his lap-played Weissenborn.
Harper puts the count at 20 instruments. Pity his guitar tech.
"I know, I know, he's got his job cut out for him," he says.
-- SEE An Acoustic Evening With Ben Harper QLD Brisbane Convention Centre, November 9. Ticketek $89 - $180. VIC The Plenary, November 10, ticketmaster.com.au
-- HEAR By My Side is out now