It had been seven years since Ben Harper last played a show with the Innocent Criminals, so when the time came to reunite for a live tour in 2015, the band—percussionist Leon Mobley, bassist Juan Nelson, drummer Oliver Charles, keyboardist Jason Yates, and guitarist Michael Ward—quickly discovered that Harper had more in mind than simply revisiting the group's prodigious collection of hits.In fact, Harper had been quietly amassing material for a new record, Call It What It Is, and the first recording sessions were scheduled to begin even before the rehearsals for their triumphant four-night sold-out reunion run at the Fillmore in San Francisco."It gave us a chance to reflect, which was important to our satisfaction and allowed us to make good decisions.” The new album is Harper’s second release for Stax Records.Perhaps most associated with icons like Booker T & The MGs, Otis Redding and Isaac Hayes, Stax is a seamless fit for Call It What It Is, due to its rich Civil Rights-era legacy and its dedication to spreading soul music in all its most powerful forms."There's a natural way we move together and flow through the recording of a song," explains Yates."There's an unspoken dialogue that runs steady through this album like a river.The accolades poured in—Rolling Stone hailed his "jewels of unique and exquisitely tender rock & roll,” while Entertainment Weekly praised his "casual profundity," and Billboard said his music "reminds us of the power and beauty of simplicity." Massive, international sold-out tours, Top 10 debuts in the US, Gold and Platinum certifications overseas, and a slew of TV appearances cemented Harper and the band's status as genuine global stars."The process of working outside of my comfort zone is really important to my growth," explains Harper.
It's all classic rock and roll bravado, full of electric guitar swagger, driving percussion, and seductive energy.
The feelings evoked by these songs are coming from the very depths of our souls.
It's a sacred sharing." The result is perhaps the proudest accomplishment of Harper's prodigious career.
"Shine" grooves with blissful passion, while "Pink Balloon" shows off a lyrical mischievousness that surprised even Harper himself.
Like so many of the other tracks, it only fully revealed itself over time and through a free-flowing collaboration with those closest to him.
There is a fearless quality to the music of Christopher Paul Stelling.