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Ben Harper|Bloodline Maintenance

Bloodline Maintenance

Ben Harper

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The very title of Bloodline Maintenance underscores Ben Harper's mission on his 2022 album: he's focusing on how trauma and tradition are passed down from one generation to the next. Certainly, these ideas are inspired by the general turbulence of the 2020s, an era where there's been an attempt at reckoning with the effects of systemic racism, but Harper's personal framing is due to the 2021 passing of Juan Nelson, his longtime friend and bandmate. In the aftermath of Nelson's death, Harper composed the bulk of Bloodline Maintenance on bass, which may be the reason why the record has an inherent deep funkiness: much of it slides and grooves, even when it's drifting into provocative territory. Harper does dress Bloodline Maintenance with meditative grace notes -- the eerie shimmer of "Below Sea Level" functions as a slightly deceptive keynote -- but most of the record finds social commentary and soul intertwining in a smooth, vibrant fashion reminiscent of the prime Curtis Mayfield albums of the 1970s. That's not to say that Harper is stirring up old ghosts or is bound by the confines of retro-revivalism. The soul at the heart of Bloodline Maintenance functions as the music that bonds generations, allowing the singer/songwriter to delve into blues, doo wop, and hip-hop, all in a manner that feels heartfelt, not flashy. The result is one of Harper's richer records: it's impossible to separate the music from the message, which makes it all the more resonant.
© Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo

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Bloodline Maintenance

Ben Harper

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1
Below Sea Level
00:01:47

Ben Harper, Composer, Producer, MainArtist - Sheldon Gomberg, Producer, MixingEngineer

2022 Chrysalis Records Limited 2022 Chrysalis Records Limited

2
We Need To Talk About It
00:02:53

Ben Harper, Composer, Producer, MainArtist - Sheldon Gomberg, Producer, MixingEngineer

2022 Chrysalis Records Limited 2022 Chrysalis Records Limited

3
Where Did We Go Wrong
00:02:44

Ben Harper, Composer, Producer, MainArtist - Sheldon Gomberg, Producer, MixingEngineer

2022 Chrysalis Records Limited 2022 Chrysalis Records Limited

4
Problem Child
00:04:31

Ben Harper, Composer, Producer, MainArtist - Sheldon Gomberg, Producer, MixingEngineer

2022 Chrysalis Records Limited 2022 Chrysalis Records Limited

5
Need To Know Basis
00:01:59

Ben Harper, Composer, Producer, MainArtist - Sheldon Gomberg, Producer, MixingEngineer

2022 Chrysalis Records Limited 2022 Chrysalis Records Limited

6
It Ain't No Use
00:03:29

Ben Harper, Composer, Producer, MainArtist - Sheldon Gomberg, Producer, MixingEngineer

2022 Chrysalis Records Limited 2022 Chrysalis Records Limited

7
More Than Love
00:03:07

Ben Harper, Composer, Producer, MainArtist - Sheldon Gomberg, Producer, MixingEngineer

2022 Chrysalis Records Limited 2022 Chrysalis Records Limited

8
Smile At The Mention
00:03:38

Ben Harper, Composer, Producer, MainArtist - Sheldon Gomberg, Producer, MixingEngineer

2022 Chrysalis Records Limited 2022 Chrysalis Records Limited

9
Honey, Honey
00:03:31

Ben Harper, Composer, Producer, MainArtist - Sheldon Gomberg, Producer, MixingEngineer

2022 Chrysalis Records Limited 2022 Chrysalis Records Limited

10
Knew The Day Was Comin'
00:02:10

Ben Harper, Composer, Producer, MainArtist - Sheldon Gomberg, Producer, MixingEngineer

2022 Chrysalis Records Limited 2022 Chrysalis Records Limited

11
Maybe I Can't
00:02:12

Ben Harper, Composer, Producer, MainArtist - Sheldon Gomberg, Producer, MixingEngineer

2022 Chrysalis Records Limited 2022 Chrysalis Records Limited

Album review

The very title of Bloodline Maintenance underscores Ben Harper's mission on his 2022 album: he's focusing on how trauma and tradition are passed down from one generation to the next. Certainly, these ideas are inspired by the general turbulence of the 2020s, an era where there's been an attempt at reckoning with the effects of systemic racism, but Harper's personal framing is due to the 2021 passing of Juan Nelson, his longtime friend and bandmate. In the aftermath of Nelson's death, Harper composed the bulk of Bloodline Maintenance on bass, which may be the reason why the record has an inherent deep funkiness: much of it slides and grooves, even when it's drifting into provocative territory. Harper does dress Bloodline Maintenance with meditative grace notes -- the eerie shimmer of "Below Sea Level" functions as a slightly deceptive keynote -- but most of the record finds social commentary and soul intertwining in a smooth, vibrant fashion reminiscent of the prime Curtis Mayfield albums of the 1970s. That's not to say that Harper is stirring up old ghosts or is bound by the confines of retro-revivalism. The soul at the heart of Bloodline Maintenance functions as the music that bonds generations, allowing the singer/songwriter to delve into blues, doo wop, and hip-hop, all in a manner that feels heartfelt, not flashy. The result is one of Harper's richer records: it's impossible to separate the music from the message, which makes it all the more resonant.
© Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo

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