Ben Harper and Relentless7, 'White Lies for Dark Times' (Virgin)

Critical Mass
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by David Marchese

On his first album with a new backing band (featuring members of indie rockers Oliver Future), rootsy vet Ben Harper offers up an impressive array of American music, ranging from muddy blues to eerie folk toHendrixian wah-wah. On the inspirational "Shimmer and Shine," you even get a bit of all three. But the fact that the album's best moments are in the details -- a fiery lick, a wailing vocal ad-lib -- speaks to the singer- guitarist's recurring problems: secondhand song structures and little to say beyond self-helpy reiterations of lyrical beatitudes.

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