Harper And Midwest Kind – Show Your Love
Blu Harp Records – 2016
11 tracks; 42 minutes
Born in the UK, raised in Western Australia, Peter D Harper initially learned to play harmonica with his grandfather and absorbed the sounds of native Australian instruments like the didgeridoo alongside the blues of Muddy and Sonny Boy in his teenage years. His first album was released in Australia in 1994 and he first toured the USA in 1996. He subsequently recorded three albums for Blind Pig and has maintained a strong connection with Detroit which is his US ‘home base’ and gives rise to the band’s name Midwest Kind. Harper wrote all the material here, arranged and produced the album, plays harp, didgeridoo and keys with Will Rideoutt on guitar and backing vocals, James Norris on bass and Cam Lewis on drums. On one track a completely different line-up features: Gregg Leonard and Tyler Mac on guitars, Al Hill on keys, Paul Randolph on bass and Dane Clarke on drums. The album was recorded in Ann Arbor, MI
The didgeridoo gives a drone-like sound which features on several cuts, notably “Hell Yeah” which opens the album. The didgeridoo and some background chanting open the track which then moves into a more conventional slide-driven rocker, Harper singing of life’s problems, the didgeridoo returning mid-tune. “What’s Goin’ Down” implores us to ‘put up or shut up’, slippery slide creating a swampy feel over acoustic guitar and piano and a fine harp solo from Harper. Title track “Show Your Love” intersperses Harper’s didgeridoo drone with an upbeat tune that harks back to the 60’s lyrically as Harper invites us all to “show your love and you will see”. The acoustic “Drive Brother Drive” has good backing vocals, acoustic guitar and percussion and more solid harp work in a decidedly West Coast musical setting. The track with the different band is “I Can’t Stand This”, a slower blues tune with the keys adding to a slightly fuller sound behind Harper’s mournful harp and vocals.
The didgeridoo is back in force on a song with a familiar title, “It’s All In The Game” but this one is Harper’s own, another song with a progressive lyric: “if you open up your eyes you can see that it’s only a game. Never feel the same, you can change the game”. The funky backbeat and some wah-wah rhythms of “It’s Time To Go” form a solid platform for Harper’s tricky harp solo and the ominous sounding “We Are In Control” is rather repetitious though Harper again blows some impressive harp. An insistent drum pattern emerges from the didgeridoo drone to set the pace for “Let’s Move” in which Harper again sings positive lyrics and “Hey What You Say” also adopts a laid-back funky feel with plenty of lyrical harp playing to enjoy. The final track “I Look At Life” is a melodic tune with elegant harp and wistful lyrics about wisdom coming with age.
Overall a solid album with enough harmonica to satisfy blues fans, the ‘exotic’ tones of the digeridoo bringing a World Music influence and lyrics that will appeal to children of the 60’s – in fact, very much the ‘World Blues’ that Harper calls his music.