Picks and Pans Review: Ben Harper

updated 04/03/2006 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/03/2006 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Both Sides of the Gun


A double-barreled Ben Harper breaks down his signature mix of funk and folk onto two distinct "sides" on his seventh studio album. The result is a potent two-CD set that showcases the breadth of the singer-songwriter's talent. On the harder, funkier side, Harper fires up his political and social consciousness, taking aim at the government's handling of Hurricane Katrina on the Stevie Wonder-esque "Black Rain": "You left them swimming for their lives down in New Orleans." On the softer, folkier side, he directs his attention to affairs of the heart, turning his aching voice—a cross between Bob Dylan and Ray Charles—to ballads like the lovely closer "Happy Everafter in Your Eyes."

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