Ben Harper has plugged his guitar back in and cranked up the amp for his new album White Lies For Dark Times, an 11-song set soaked with hard rock and the deep Delta blues. “It’s a sound I’ve been looking for and reaching for in my mind,” Harper tells Rolling Stone (a full in the studio report can be found in our current issue). “We’ve taken turns kicking each others’ asses in the most gracious fashion, pushing this into new places.” Which means the album is more Cream than Jack Johnson, more “Faded” than “Steal My Kisses.”
Why the louder sound? Harper’s ninth studio album will be his first with his new backing band Relentless7, three Austin-based musicians who initially worked with Harper on 2006’s Both Sides of the Gun. It also marks the first time Harper has recorded an album without his Innocent Criminals since 2003’s Diamonds on the Inside. Even though he’s fully committed to Relentless7, and will bring the band along for his slot at Bonnaroo, Harper still plans to keep the Innocent Criminals together, much like how Neil Young and Crazy Horse often took different paths but somehow always found their way back together.
Rolling Stone caught Harper and Relentless7 at Los Angeles’ Spaceland in December 2008, where the band played White Lies tracks like the tough, howling “Number With No Name” and the brooding 12-string acoustic ballad “Skin Thin,” plus a cover of the Queen/David Bowie collaboration “Under Pressure.” The Smoking Section also talked with Harper about the R7 in the days following the group’s slot on the Rock the Vote! Tour.