Rise Up opens with its title track, a call to find our voice and use it. Historically, that would mean gathering together in protest, but these days it sadly often seems to mean whining on social media. I fear we’ve really lost something there. Don’t get me wrong, I like to tear into those Nazi bastards on Facebook too (and I’m permanently off Twitter because of comments I made about that rat in the White House), but I think it’s going to take something more to create meaningful change, and this song offers encouragement and hope in that direction. “People standing up for what they believe/It’s been too long since we had relief/Things can change, you’ve got to be heard/Nothing’s really stronger than words.” This is a good bluesy number with a message, and it concludes with a nice jam that features some cool work on didgeridoo. That’s followed by “Blues I Can’t Use,” which opens with these lines: “Well, I woke up this morning and I turned on the news/Thinking, what did he say now, what did he do/I can’t believe I’m hearing all the things that he said/Seems he’s getting nasty every single day.” We all do this, waking up needing to know what fresh horror that prick in the White House has unleashed on the world, and it is really not the best way to start our day. We are already on edge, and we haven’t even had breakfast. Then Harper asks, “What can I do with the blues I can’t use?” And that is exactly the question, isn’t it? How do we react? How do we turn this information into something we can handle, something we can act upon? “Someone needs to tell me this will all go away.” We want this horror show over, we want that criminal imprisoned or interred, along with Moscow Mitch and the rest of the scumbags. Enough already. “I guess that things will never ever be the same,” Harper sings, and that is the fear. Have we stumbled so far into darkness that we won’t be able to find our way back?
“I Still Got You” begins with a good groove. As the world deteriorates into disarray and disrepair, led by morons and scoundrels, the main thing that keeps me going is my girlfriend’s love and company. And that is what this song seems to be celebrating. It is so important to have someone at our side as we try to make sense of a world gone stupid. “Whenever I feel blue/Yeah, I still got you.” Plus, this track features some wonderful work on harmonica. That’s followed by “Hateful,” a tune with a deep, dark groove. “We’re so sick and tired of all the lies you use/Why do you need to be hurtful/To get the things that you need/Your mind is full of lots of hate and greed.” Harper then asks, “Why do you have to be hateful/Why do you have to be cruel?” Sure, this song could be about someone in our personal lives, but it’s difficult to divorce these lyrics from those currently in power. I dig that bass line, particularly during that cool instrumental section halfway through. “The hate inside you really is your fear.” And I admit it’s not like I’m innocent. I feel a lot of hatred these days toward a certain segment of our population. But then again, do Nazis deserve anything other than our hatred? I honestly don’t know. But the music seems to be asking me to act on the better part of myself, to not let that hatred dictate the course of my day.
“Heavy Horses” has a brighter sound almost right from the start, and a certain catchy element. Here Harper is joined on vocals by Bobbi Llewellyn, who co-wrote the song with him. This track features more good work on harmonica. Then “Talk To Me” has a pleasant, positive groove. “Yeah, what you say is so hard to believe/Telling the truth would bring us all some relief/You don’t have to lie to get a reaction/I can tell it’s just a distraction.” Yup. And again, this song isn’t necessarily about any specific person, but it is certainly difficult to keep from thinking about one man who can’t seem to tell the truth, no matter the subject. But because Harper refrains from calling him out by name, when this mess is over, these songs will still be relevant, will continue to speak to us, for we’ll be able to apply them to other situations. That is especially true of “World’s Insane.” How many times a day do you find yourself uttering something like that? The world is insane. “Time for change, time for change.” Indeed!
“Welcome Home” begins with some mean, delicious harmonica and a thumping beat. There is more great stuff on harmonica throughout the track, and it is that playing that is really the heart of this one. That’s followed by “Let You Go,” which has a seriously good, strong groove, one you can move to. Somewhat in contrast to that groove are the lyrics about missing someone: “There are so many things I need to do/But I can’t do them without you/Visions running through my head/I find it hard to leave the bed/I seem to waste a lot of time.” The disc then concludes with “Peaceful,” another positive song, a look at a possible reality. “Wouldn’t it be something if we all could get along/There would be no hunger and the world would be so strong/No need for an army, there’d be no one to fear/If we could lose the anger, then the answer would be clear.” The question is, can we get there?
CD Track List
- Rise Up
- Blues I Can’t Use
- I Still Got You
- Heavy Horses
- Talk To Me
- World’s Insane
- Welcome Home
- Let You Go
Rise Up is scheduled to be released on February 11, 2020 on Access Records.