Ben Harper is and always will be the type of artist that evolves. On every release, he finds new sounds and ways to express his experiences. To date, he’s always been very smart lyrically and, at times, he acts as almost a teacher, taking on heavy topics and finding ways to strip them down, delicately explaining ways to sort through and find resolution. His new album, Give Till It’s Gone, fares no different.
This time, however, he takes the journey alone; in other words, he’s without one of his talented bands. On the whole, Give Till It’s Gone gets very personal. Many of the tracks focus on confusion and almost awaiting the end of a relationship, which makes sense given his recent divorce. That being said, his words are more vulnerable here than on previous releases, as he almost lacks confidence and second-guesses himself more often than not. On the track “Don’t Give Up on Me Now”, he declares, “I don’t even know myself/what it would take to know myself/I need to change, I don’t know how/don’t give up on me now.” The aforementioned theme rings true again on the album’s second track, “I Will Not Be Broken”. The slow ballad-like tune is one of the sadder songs on the album, but, this time, with a good message (“Give and you give and you give till it’s gone/then the people you fight hardest for say you’re wrong/before me flash all of my memories and days/so don’t stand insincere at the side of my grave”).
Although the album’s a tad heavy lyrically, this record should not be taken as a downer by any means. In fact, it features some of Harper’s best rock music to date. His guitars are edgier and free, present throughout almost every track. The catchy chorus of “Rock N’ Roll Is Free” is hypnotic, and the Zeppelin-charged “Clearly Severely” is one of the more unique songs in the Harper collection, as he channels his inner Guitar Hero.
In the past, Harper has taught us about love, drugs, life, and rock and roll. Here, we learn he is not all-knowing. We see that he’s been affected by powers outside of his control and that he must find ways to adapt to this. He’s okay with admitting that, and this could be considered his most mature album to date. He continues his evolution as an artist, as well as a person. He might lack a sense of direction personally (at least right now), but it’s this lack of clarity that has produced a very focused record.