Ben Harper Sees Both Sides

Singer-songwriter polishes off a disc of funk and a disc of ballads

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Ben Harper will release a two-CD set, Both Sides of the Gun, on March 21st. While Harper released a collaboration with the Blind Boys of Alabama in 2004, this eighteen-track collection, divided into nine songs per disc, is the follow-up to his last solo effort, 2003's world music-inspired Diamonds on the Inside.

At an hour long, the new material would easily fit on one CD. But Harper wanted to give each disc a distinct sound, one harder and one softer, as he just "wasn't able to find that magic balance."

Among the tracks on Both Sides' harder-edged half is the title track, which melds funk with a Seventies soul vibe, and the blues and funk-driven "Black Rain," a song in response to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. In contrast, Both Sides' second half features the power ballad "Picture in a Frame," and the romantic closer "Happily Ever After in Your Eyes," a track Harper hopes will become "the ultimate wedding song." (Harper and longtime girlfriend actress Laura Dern actually chose holiday tracks for their recent wedding ceremony this December 23rd in Los Angeles.)

While the California singer-songwriter turned to his usual backing band and a number of L.A. "jazz-heads" for recording, he self-produced the album and, on several tracks, played all the instruments. Harper says of his very hands-on effort, "I feel confident there's not an ounce of filler."

With tour plans in support of Both Sides in the works for either February or March -- and a co-headlining slot for the Langerado Music Festival in Sunrise, Florida, on March 11th -- Harper finds himself itching to get out on the road. "I'm jumping out of my skin. I can hardly sit still. I just can't wait to get it out and play it."