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.
Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals have reunited for ‘Call It What It Is’, their first record together in nine years, released today on Stax Records / Caroline Australia.
“I thought we would be more energized and revitalized by thinking outside the box and starting with new material in the studio before we dug into the old stuff,” explains Harper. “It was meant to be a signpost that we’re here to forge new ground musically and personally. Because of that, the older material started to sound brand new too.”
As serious and solemn as ‘Call It What It Is’ can get, though, it’s also one of Harper’s most joyous records. “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.
‘CALL IT WHAT IT IS’ IS OUT NOW VIA STAX RECORDS / CAROLINE AUSTRALIA