Ben Harper - Both Sides of the Gun (2 CDs)

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 second disc. Instead of jacking up traditional blues forms in a cliched 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 first 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.

1. Morning Yearning
2. Waiting For You
3. Picture In A Frame
4. Never Leave Lonely Alone
5. Sweet Nothing Serenade
6. Reason To Mourn
7. More Than Sorry
8. Cryin' Won't Help You Now
9. Happy Everafter In Your Eyes

1. Better Way mp3
2. Both Sides Of The Gun mp3
3. Engraved Invitation mp3
4. Black Rain mp3
5. Gather 'Round The Stone mp3
6. Please Don't Talk About Murder While I'm Eating mp3
7. Get It Like You Like It mp3
8. Way You Found Me, The mp3
9. Serve Your Soul mp3

Released March 2006