Ben Harper and the Blind Boys of Alabama: There Will Be A Light

By James Calemine

Ben Harper produced There Will Be A Light, which transcends the same tiresome self-indulgent music, and emerges as a classic gospel album. Recorded in two sessions during January and March of 2004, these 11 songs prove strong testimony to the potent combination of Ben Harper and the Blind Boys of Alabama. The latter remains one of the most dynamic and long lasting gospel groups in the business. The Blind Boys recorded a Harper song on their critically acclaimed album Spirit of the Century, and their Grammy winning release, Higher Ground.

The provenance of this project originated with the idea of Harper recording one or two songs for the next Blind Boys album that turned into a full-blown collaboration. “Take My Hand” opens the CD and proves the vitality of The Blind Boys. Harper’s strong songwriting skills shine on “Wicked Man.” He co-wrote the sanctified “Where Could I Go” with band mates Jason Yates and ex-Black Crowes guitarist Marc Ford (subject in Insured Beyond The Grave Vol. 2). “Church House Steps” resonates with the powerful and majestic harmonies of the Blind Boys. On the next track, Harper plays a mighty fine Dobro instrumental comprising the “11th Commandment”.

A version of the Bob Dylan/Danny O’Keefe song “Well, Well, Well” sounds like a lowdown blues cut. The centerpiece composition complete with Beatle-esque intro, “Pictures of Jesus,” ranks as a veritable tune in any era, or musical format. An electrified blues version of “Satisfied Mind” displays the versatility of the Innocent Criminals while the traditional arrangement of “Mother Pray” stands as the most soulful song on the album.

The title track evokes a musical bliss that inspires faith in any common sinner. Harper penned “Church On Time” which represents another upbeat song on the album, with timeless lyrics:

“Revelation chapter eight
Seven angels at the gate
You don’t want to make them late
We’re gonna make it to the church on time.”

Ben Harper and the Blind Boys of Alabama achieved the difficult goal of making a gospel album for rock and roll listeners. There Will Be A Light proves as strong medicine for the soul.

Read my interview with the late Clarence Fountain in Insured Beyond The Grave

www.jamescalemine.com

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Insured Beyond The Grave Vol. 2