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ACL Fest Reviews

Record review

Reviewed by Robert Gabriel, September 17, 2004, Music

Ben Harper & the Blind Boys of Alabama

There Will Be a Light (Virgin) Transporting listeners back to the glory days of gospel in order to express that now is as good a time as any to see the proverbial light, Ben Harper & the Blind Boys of Alabama make for quite a missionary team. What started out as Harper joining the Blind Boys in the studio to record two songs for the Blind Boys' next album turned into an eight-day session, which ultimately resulted in the 11 tracks that comprise There Will Be a Light. Belting out nine originals penned by Harper in addition to the adaptation of two traditional numbers in the form of "Mother Pray" and "Satisfied Mind," the kindred spirits exuberantly conjure the warm sentiments of faithful devotion. Throughout the album, Harper's trademark slide guitar hints at secular rebuttal, his symbolic tributes to the likes of B.B. King, Otis Redding, Al Green, John Lee Hooker, Taj Mahal, and Robert Cray remain firmly dedicated to the Lord's calling. While for the most part the Blind Boys bolster Harper's newfound vision with backing vocals and moral support, both "Satisfied Mind" and the title track find the elder statesmen taking up lead positions in the choir. Whether scampering through a country neighborhood in order to make it to "Church on Time," or simply relaxing on the "Church House Steps," Harper and the Blind Boys succeed in crafting inspirational tunes that never get bogged down by the heavy hand of God that they're most certainly wielding. (Sunday, 8:30pm, SBC stage)


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