Three of rocks biggest talents are called down to the studio for a fistful of magic.
Ben Harper is a busy man. The elite talent who over the years has had many different bands backing him is now getting behind a supergroup of his own. Between relentlessly recording material with his new '7' band, touring Europe with Pearl Jam, reinventing timeless Michael Hutchence classics with INXS and performing with Ringo Starr on 'The Daily Show' Ben has still found time to come down to the studio with another Beatle family member and another great singer/songwriter to form a group for the ages. There seems to be no musical mercy for Harper who teams with Dhani Harrison and Joseph Arthur to form Fistful Of Mercy, a group that gives us a handful of gems with their 9 track debut, 'As I Call You Down'.
The vocals on this record are handed out equally to the three members of Fistful Of Mercy. This hand to hand, give and take is heard at it's best on the albums title track 'As I Call You Down'. Harrison, Harper and Arthur harmonise in a perfectly beautiful melody the lines 'When I fall inside a hole, that I can't crawl out/ better give up my control, as I call you down". The in time, old soul, socially relevant chorus is sung in such an emotive way that it would make Crosby Stills & Nash proud.
As well as this debut album having a title track in the set list there's also a record named after this new bands moniker. 'Fistful Of Mercy' is an introspective gem which awakes even the most lost of listeners. It's beautifully haunting and bravely hopeful at the same time. The influence of Dhani's father George seems to have waxed of on this record with a eloquent engaging chorus, "Maybe it's soft inside her heart, fistful of mercy/maybe it comes from where we are, land of the thirsty".
The records these three have produced are short, sweet but are far from shallow. Mercy don't tread water, they reach new depths. This act makes you glad Arthur recruited Harper and Harper met Harrison in a skate park in Santa Monica. 'As I Call You Down' leaves you shouting up for more. The trio throughout the album keep the wheels of this project going, recording at the Carriage House studio in LA's Silverlake neighborhood where they produced gold songs that in a better world would go platinum.
Harrison likened the big three's joint recording to George Harrison's own supergroup The Traveling Wilburys. Although this group doesn't feature as legendary names as Dylan, Orbison or Petty the music itself makes more than a name for itself. Take the country song 'Father's Son' which is dripping with American culture and could easily have made it's way into Harper's earlier work.
Speaking of Ben, despite this being a group effort the calm atmospheric slide guitar of Harper on the instrumental '30 Bones' evokes rising memories of the serene 'Paris, Sunrise' off Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals album 'Lifeline'. It's timeless, classic numbers like this that pulls the album and band towards the 'greats' status.
Still however this is a group effort. Sure each super talent brings there unique gifts and styles to the mix but there is no show boating or stealing. Fistful capture their own, unique sound. A style that shows the cohesiveness and tightness that's come in a short space of time. This supergroup feels like a regular new act. From a sum of their parts they've got a whole lot of originality in their hands. This is evident in the spiritually sound tracks 'Restore Me' and 'In Vain or True', two of the best tracks called out on this LP offering more meaning and reasoning to this bands method and rhyme.
'Things Go Round' is a more upbeat number and as time's go round, on and change it's hard to tell how long this 'side project' will last with all the members other work aside. It would take a fool however to say this genius outfits number will soon be up. Sure just like The Travelling Willburys this band is wonderfully unassuming but that's a good thing. They may just fit in rather than break the mould but just like Dhani's farther their music acts as the perfect road companion for travellers that know the musical landscape. Not only is Fistful Of Mercy's debut 'As I Call You Down' a tremendous record it also furthers the reach of Arthur, the classic discography of Harper and the legendary legacy of the Harrison family. TIM DAVID HARVEY.