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Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals ‘Call It What It Is’ at The Fillmore

ben harper
Ben Harper | Photo by Breanna Keohane for WXPN

Ben Harper and The Innocent Criminals are back, and they showed Philly just what they are bringing to the table last Sunday when they played at The Fillmore as a stop along their Call It What Is tour.

Kicking off the set with some cowbell and heavy rock and roll guitar in “When Sex Was Dirty,” Harper and the band introduced their newly released album Call It What It Is. The album was released on April 8th, and was the band’s first album back together in eight years. XPN welcomed Harper and the band back on April 1st when they played a Free at Noon show for World Cafe Live at The Queen, but this was Harper’s first time back in Philadelphia proper since his acoustic set at the Merriam Theater in October 2012. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Ben Harper at The Fillmore, They Might Be Giants at TLA, Dom Flemons at The Abbey Bar, and more…

Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN
Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals just released their first collaborative LP in 8 years, Call It What It Is, and they just played a Free At Noon for World Cafe Live at The Queen in Delaware last week. Tonight, they take on The Fillmore for another round of slaying rock & soul. Opening the show will be Christopher Paul Stelling. For tickets and more information, check out the XPN Concert Calendar.  Continue reading →

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Free At Noon Flashback: A fired-up Ben Harper debuts Call It What It Is for a sold out Queen

Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN
Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN

It’s been eight years since Ben Harper teamed up with his long time backing band The Innocent Criminals, but this spring brings the release of the fired-up new LP Call It What It Is, out April 8th on Stax Records. This afternoon at Wilmington’s World Cafe Live at the Queen, Harper and the band – percussionist Leon Mobley, bassist Juan Nelson, drummer Oliver Charles, keyboardist Jason Yates, and guitarist Michael Ward – gave a sold-out crowd a taste of the new record with a Free at Noon performance broadcast live on WXPN and on VuHaus. Continue reading →

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Happy Birthday, George: Listen to Ben Harper’s Harrison cover from upcoming George Fest tribute album

Ben Harper
Ben Harper performing at Non-Comm

The quiet Beatle would have been 73 today, and in celebration, Rolling Stone has shared Ben Harper‘s contribution to George Fest: A Night to Celebrate George Harrison, a day before its full release.

For his performance, Harper covered his favorite George song, “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)“, from Harrison’s 1973 album Living In The Material World. It was Harrison’s 2nd solo #1 single after “My Sweet Lord.” Harper’s cover remains faithful by retaining George’s signature slide guitar while his bluesy vocals give the tune a more worldly feel. Continue reading →

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XPN’s Gotta Hear Song of the Week: “Can’t Hold Out (Talk To Me Baby)” by Johnny Winter featuring Ben Harper

Johnny Winter | Photo courtesy of Facebook | https://www.facebook.com/pages/Johnny-Winter/58833032349
Johnny Winter | Photo courtesy of Facebook | https://www.facebook.com/pages/Johnny-Winter/58833032349

Recently, the music world was stunned by the death of the legendary blues and rock guitarist and singer Johnny Winter at the age of 70. Sadly, he didn’t survive long enough to see the release of his new album, Step Back. Continue reading →

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Listen to Sweet Relief III: Pennies From Heaven (featuring Jackson Browne, Ben Harper, Josepth Arthur, She & Him and others)

sweetrelief On the heels of the 20th anniversary of the first release, Sweet Relief: A Benefit for Victoria Williams comes Sweet Relief III: Pennies From Heaven on Vanguard Records. The last edition in the series since was Sweet Relief II: Gravity of the Situation, a collection dedicated to Vic Chestnutt, in 1996. SWIII: Pennies from Heaven features 13 new recordings of songs by an all-star cast that includes Ben Harper, Jackson Browne, Shelby Lynne, Victoria Williams, She & Him, Eleni Mandell, Ron Sexsmith, k.d. lang, Rickie Lee Jones, Joseph Arthur and more. The cover art is by pop art legend Peter Max.

Sweet Relief is a non-profit charity that maintains a fund that professional musicians can draw from when in need of medical care or financial needs. It started after musician and singer Victoria Williams was diagnosed with MS in 1993 and had no way to pay for her medical expenses. Sweet Relief III: Pennies From Heaven is an excellent collection of covers. Some of the highlights include Ron Sexsmith’s gorgeous take on the title song, Joseph Arthur’s reading of “If I Needed You,” Ben Harper’s cover of Van Morrison’s “Crazy Love,” and “Don’t Let Us Be Sick” by Jackson Browne. Working on the project, Brown said:

“Musicians are always among the first to give their energy and talent to help other people in times of emergency, though they are very often without health insurance themselves, and need our support when they fall prey to illness and hardship. Sweet Relief has been helping musicians for years, and has helped some whom I am very much indebted to for enriching my life. I am very happy to take part in this CD project, and for the chance to support Sweet Relief’s very soulful work.”

Stream Sweet Relief III in its entirety and watch a couple videos from the recording sessions below.

Purchase Sweet Relief III: Pennies From Heaven here.

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Michaela Majoun’s five most sonically addictive songs of 2012

For The Key’s year-in-review, we asked our trusted sources – our writers and photographers, XPN’s on-air staff, fellow bloggers in the Philly scene and even a few musicians – to send us their Top Five Whatevers. Could be the traditional music route – albums, songs, concerts of the year – or it could be only loosely connected. We’ll be sharing these recaps every day through to the end of the year. Today, XPN Morning Show host Michaela Majoun shares her five most sonically addictive songs of 2012.

By which I mean songs you just can’t get out of your head, not necessarily because of lyrical content or musical depth, but because of a sound that hooks you.  I suspect it has something to do with repetition and viscerally-felt clapping or drum noise and the other things noted below. There are studies about why music is addictive – read more here and here. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Neil Halstead at World Cafe Live, Animal Collective at The Mann Center, Nick Waterhouse at Johnny Brenda’s, Polica at Union Transfer, Ben Harper at The Merriam Theater

British singer-songwriter Neil Halstead will be at World Cafe Live tonight.  A founding member of indie-folk group Mojave 3 and shoegazers Slowdive, Halstead has spent the last ten years building a solo career and released his latest record, Palindrome Hunches, in September.   Also playing tonight are Jim Hanft with Samantha Yonack.  Tickets are $15 at the World Cafe Live website; doors open at 6:00 p.m. with music beginning at 7:30 p.m. Watch Neil perform “Tied to You” off of Palindrome Hunches below.

Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: The Album Leaf at Johnny Brenda’s, Shellac at Union Transfer

The Album Leaf is a solo project founded by Jimmy LaValle, whose musical style emulates many of its Sub Pop counterparts. The California-based post-rock band’s latest album, 2010’s A Chorus Of Storytellers, is a mellow affair that thrives on synth, ambient noise, and occasional acoustic guitar. Each song has a decently long build up and instrumental layering that should intrigue any fan of the post-rock genre; the lyrics, on the other hand, are rarely complicated (lines such as “One day we began/To fly again/And now we start/To fly and then” are pretty much par for the course). However, any lacking lyricism is excusable as the focus of the music is the instruments themselves. LaValle capitalizes on lo-fi, experimental sounds that ultimately sooth and entrance the listener. The Album Leaf performs with Sister Crayon at 9 p.m. at Johnny Brenda’s; tickets to the 21+ show are $14–$16. —Caitlyn Grabenstein

Also Playing: Shellac +  Helen Money at Union Transfer (8:30 p.m., all ages, $13); Ben Harper at Electric Factory (8 p.m., $52.55)