Ben Harper

Give Till It's Gone

By Sarah Rodman
Globe Staff / May 17, 2011

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Last year California hybrid-rocker Ben Harper joined forces with Joseph Arthur and Dhani Harrison for Fistful of Mercy, a quirkily pleasant, harmony-drenched folk-rock concern. On “Give Till It’s Gone,’’ Harper cranks up the guitars and amps up the emotional intensity as if he’s had it pent up for some time. It is raw, warped, and cathartic. Best fitting that description is “I Will Not Be Broken,’’ which manages to simultaneously sound defiant (in Harper’s frenetic guitar solos) and resigned (in the solemnity of his voice). It’s a performance bristling with pain and confusion. Other standouts include the Springsteen-ish opener, “Don’t Give Up on Me Now,’’ and the hurtling “Clearly Severely,’’ which sounds like a successful mash-up of CSN and Dinosaur Jr. This may be the first album credited solely to Harper since 2006, but he gets help from several corners, including members of his most recent backing band Relentless7, Ringo Starr (most fittingly on the Beatlesque “Get There From Here’’), and Jackson Browne, who provides backing vocals on “Pray That Our Love Sees the Dawn.’’ (Out today)

ESSENTIAL “I Will Not Be Broken’’