Ben Harper takes a ton of flak for being a great emulator of his heroes like Marley, Hendrix and Redding while letting his own personality get lost in the mix. This tendency is diminished on Harper's eighth studio effort, which sounds more self-assured and focused than ever.
Recording over seven days in Paris on the heels of a nine-month tour, Harper and his Criminals crew are in full sync on rolling Southern rocker Say You Will or the smooth R&B Motown flow of Fight Outta You.
They occasionally slip into derivative territory, Beggars Banquet-era Stones in particular, but strong solo material saves Lifeline near the end. The city's romanticism creeps in on Paris Sunrise #7, a beautiful guitar composition, and the one-take closing (title) track that Harper nails with equal parts fragility and composure.
Ben Harper and co. play Massey Hall September 28 and 29.