Wednesday, September 5, 2007


OK, I know it's early to make such a big statement, and I've really dug albums by Lucinda Williams and The White Stripes this year (and I haven't heard the upcoming albums by Neil Young, Mary Gauthier [who I will write more about], Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, PJ Harvey or Steve Earle - to name just a few cool albums yet to come out this year). But I love Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals' Lifeline.
I first saw Ben perform at Maxwell's - a small bar in Hoboken, NJ - in 1995. He was opening for Alejandro Escovedo. To say I was blown away would be an understatement. I'd always heard stories from older people about seeing Springsteen at bars before he got famous, or Tom Petty, or Bob Marley on his first U.S. tour, etc. I never really expected to see someone who would go on to that kind of greatness playing at a small joint. That night, I thought, "Wow, that was it. I think I just saw it." Of course, people will argue that point, and silly rock critics tend not to give much love to Ben. But the guy has organically built a pretty intense following over the years, and he's done it on his own terms. As a fan since (almost) "Day One" (in the parlance of our times), I've never felt embarassed by anything he's done, and I've always been proud to be a fan. It's been cool to see him go from opening act at Maxwell's to headliner at Jones Beach. Later this month, I'll see him at Radio City Music Hall. I can't wait - if you're not familiar with him, well, I can't recomend him enough. Back in the day when he just had one album out - Welcome To The Cruel World - I must have bought that album 10 times, and just given it to anyone who I thought had good taste. If you are looking to check him out for the first time, you almost can't go wrong with any of his albums, but I'd say start with Lifeline or Cruel World or Fight For Your Mind or Diamonds On The Inside. Or his great double live album, Live From Mars.

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