Harper

Down to the Rhythm

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Although harmonica whiz Peter Harper has released some half-dozen albums from his native Australia, this is his first on the Blind Pig imprint, and also the first time the label has put out an album by a blues artist from outside the U.S. Harper is a crack harp player, and he plays the instrument with both speed and efficiency, blasting into his runs with the force of a jet stream, but it would be a mistake to pigeonhole Harper as just an impressive instrumentalist. He is also a solid songwriter, and a soulful singer with a knack for impassioned sincerity. Harper may sound like he's from Tennessee, but he's from Melbourne, and recently he has begun working the Aborigine didgeridoo into his music, giving him a unique roots sound that walks the line between being comfortable and familiar while simultaneously veering off into some eerie territory. It is the drone of the didgeridoo on "Big Brown Land" and "The World Starts Loving You" that makes them the key tracks on Down to the Rhythm, suggesting as they do a whole new direction for Harper's bluesy roots rock. Elsewhere, the album sounds less striking, although that doesn't mean the remaining tracks are weak. This guy knows how to deliver mid-tempo roots rock with a wallop, and his harp breaks are frequently flights of wonder. The fine ballad "I've Been Waiting" suggests he knows how to burn on the slow track, as well, but overall, Down to the Rhythm feels like it is in a holding pattern. Here's guessing that the next album will take Harper further down the road to the sort of worldbeat/roots/blues fusion he only hints at on this one.

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