Call It What It Is is an incisive, bold, poetic statement that could only come from these long-time musical partners, one of popular music’s most essential, cohesive and dynamic ensembles.
The standout title track showcases Harper’s unmatched ability to blend the personal and political. Invoking the names of Trayvon Martin, Ezell Ford, and Michael Brown over an agitated blues riff, Harper cuts to the quick: "There's good cops / bad cops / white cops / black cops / call it what it is / Murder”. The genre-spanning collection contains many highlights including the sun-kissed groove of "Shine” and the album’s swaggering lead track "When Sex Was Dirty.”
It had been seven years since Ben Harper last played a show with the Innocent Criminals, so when the time came to reunite for a live tour in 2015, the band—percussionist Leon Mobley, bassist Juan Nelson, drummer Oliver Charles, keyboardist Jason Yates, and guitarist Michael Ward—quickly discovered that Harper had more in mind than simply revisiting the group's prodigious song catalog. In fact, Harper had been quietly amassing material for a new record and the first recording sessions were scheduled to begin even before the rehearsals for their triumphant four-night sold-out reunion run at the Fillmore in San Francisco last March.
Tracing their roots back to 1993, Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals were at the heart of most of Harper’s projects until the band went on hiatus in 2008. The band toured internationally and released a string of groundbreaking albums, including Fight for Your Mind, The Will to Live, Burn to Shine and the GRAMMY-nominated Lifeline in 2007. The Innocent Criminals also backed Harper and The Blind Boys of Alabama on the double-GRAMMY-winning There Will Be a Light in 2005.
"I thought we would be more energized and revitalized by thinking outside the box and starting with new material in the studio before we dug into the old stuff,” said Harper of the reunion album. "It was meant to be a signpost that we're here to forge new ground musically and personally.”
Call It What It Is Track List: