Picks and Pans Review: Welcome to the Cruel World
For the last year, Ben Harper's mesmerizing live performances in L.A. clubs have generated the soaring expectations that often ruin careers before they are even launched. However this debut album more than rises to the challenge. Harper, 24, plays these 13 songs, ruminations on rage and renewal, with haunting sparsity on a Weissenborn—a rare Hawaiian steel lap guitar from the 1920s—and delivers them in a burgundy voice that gives each an old soul flavor. Harper's world may be a cruel one, but his strong vision and appeal makes this effort entirely welcome. (Virgin)
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