We admit we haven’t kept up with the fantastic Ben Harper. So it surprised us that his latest album, Winter Is For Lovers, is an instrumental only affair that finds him exploring the steel guitar. It’s a fantastic diversion that reminds us of John Fahey, Robbie Basho, and Glenn Jones. But Harper pulls enough weight on his own that the album never sound derivative. Nor does it sound like instrumentals waiting for vocals. But what the songs could do with is a fleshing out, and Harper’s done that. His latest release, “Joshua Tree,” pairs him with a full band accompaniment. Thankfully, the transition doesn’t change the beautiful nature of the original; instead, it fleshes it out quite nicely, giving it a vibe not unlike label mates Calexico. It’s a superb reworking of an already fantastic track; he’s done the same for “Inland Empire,” to much the same high level of quality.
Purchase Ben Harper, “Joshua Tree”: Anti-