Review: Winter Is For Lovers by Ben Harper

One of his most significant bodies of work to date, Winter Is For Lovers, sees Ben Harper release his musical canon, exemplifying his mastery of the lap steel guitar.

Journeying through the mind’s eye along ebbing waves of sound, the listener embarks on a voyage of discovery, pit stopping at the places which inspired Harper to create his work.

While the album title conjures up musical expectations of cosy romantic evenings, or cold wintery walks – the solo instrument compositions brings a more rousing warmth and energy.

Take ‘London’ for instance, a fast paced bohemian sound, tinged in middle-eastern swelter and gypsy swing. Harper weaves the city’s multi-culture into his strings.

Being able to manipulate his instrument to create sound and imagery is no mere task and has taken the artist decades to perfect, as he sought the expert tutelage of slide master Taj Mahal and lap steel virtuoso, Chris Darrow. This knowledge reflected as Harper’s strings sing like heat waves rising in the arid and wearying track ‘Joshua Tree’.

The arabesque and traditional sound of ‘Istanbul’ with its simple chords is a soothing and lulling piece, as is the more relaxing and tranquil ‘Verona’ and ‘Toronto’.

Talking of fair Verona, it’s worth noting that Harper was reading ‘Infinite Jest’ by David Foster Wallace at the time of making this album and was intrigued by the author’s way of piecing together several short stories to create one big narrative, something he reflected in this body of work. The book ‘Infinite Jest’ being a quote from ‘Hamlet’ – could Harper also be making a nod to the bard in a ‘Winters Tale’? perhaps the answer lies in the quaint, melodic ‘Islip’ which like ‘Paris’ is one of the albums show-stopping pieces.

Other tracks to note are ‘Harlem’, where you would expect to find a stride and ragtime piece, you instead hear an almost improvised style in total contrast to the rich pickings of ‘Inland Empire’. Then there’s ‘Bizanet’ with it’s flamenco style.

It’s certainly hard to create an album of varying styles, sans drums, piano and words but Ben Harper and his lap steel has once again push against convention to reaffirm why he’s a Grammy Award Winning artist.

‘Winter Is For Lovers’ Track Listing: 

  1. Istanbul
  2. New York
  3. Joshua Tree
  4. Inland Empire
  5. Harlem
  6. Lebanon
  7. London
  8. Toronto 
  9. Verona
  10. Brittany 
  11. Montreal 
  12. Bizanet 
  13. Toronto (Reprise) 
  14. Islip 
  15. Paris 

Available to buy now through Anti-Records

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