For years, Ben Harper has dutifully played the role of laid-back, new-age hippie for glassy-eyed jam-band fans. His two-disc 2006 release, Both Sides of the Gun, was an ambitious song cycle that threw some grit into his usually refined mix. The Austin musicians who played on Gun return as the Relentless7 for White Lies for Dark Times, a plugged-in, blister-popping album that stands as the most electric in Harper’s 15-year career. On opener “Number With No Name,” he rolls out a stomping blues as his new trio bashes away behind him. And that’s pretty much how things play out; listen to the way everyone plows through “Shimmer & Shine” or the way Harper’s impassioned voice cracks on “Lay There & Hate Me.” White Lies for Dark Times is still a jam-band record, but instead of winding, 15-minute solos, it’s stuffed with three-and-a-half-minute songs based on another fan favorite: volume.
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