Burn To Shine

Ben Harper does everything well without doing anything particularly brilliantly. On his fourth album, Burn to Shine, he works electric and acoustic guitars, often within the same song, moving from keening folk ("Alone") to propulsive rock ("Less") to churchy soul ("Show Me a Little Shame") to alt-rock's melodic crunch ("Please Bleed"). The Southern country rock of "Steal My Kisses" — driven by a human beatbox — nestles alongside the cheerful, low-key swing of the 1920s-style arrangement in "Suzie Blue," with Harper's light, high voice making his commonplace sounds engaging. His musical eclecticism is so impressive, it's easy to overlook the well-meaning pedestrianism of his lyrics ("She brought me so many smiles and tears"). He has a vast and searching musical mind somewhat behind its time, still wringing meaning out of Bob Marley and Jimi Hendrix.

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