Harper, Blind Boys Pairing Spawns Live DVD
Following a collaborative CD that resulted in a trio of Grammy nominations, Ben Harper and the Blind Boys Of Alabama are planning to release a concert DVD early next year. The film was taped at a one-Following a collaborative CD that resulted in a trio of Grammy nominations, Ben Harper and the Blind Boys Of Alabama are planning to release a concert DVD early next year. The film was taped at a one-off performance at New York's famed Apollo Theatre in October in support of "There Will Be a Light," the first full-length release by the modern day troubadour and the seminal inspirational vocal group.
"I'm excited to put that out, something live, as far as a celebration of this record," Harper tells Billboard.com of the DVD, which is due in the spring via Virgin.
Backed by Harper's band, the Innocent Criminals, the show found the Blind Boys and Harper performing all 11 tracks from "There Will Be a Light," which debuted in October at No. 1 on Billboard's Top Gospel Albums chart and No. 81 on The Billboard 200. The set has sold 98,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Additionally, Harper employed the Blind Boys' talents on the inspirational tracks that have graced such albums as his 1995 release "Fight for Your Mind" ("Excuse Me Mr.," "People Lead," "Give a Man a Home"), 1997's "The Will To Live" ("I Want To Be Ready," "I Shall Not Walk Alone," the latter covered on the Blind Boys' 2002 release, "Higher Ground") and last year's "Diamonds on the Inside" ("Brown Eyed Blues," "Temporary Remedy").
At deadline it was unknown if the DVD would reflect the full show, which included three encores, or selected performances.
"There Will Be a Light" earned Harper his first solo Grammy nomination for "11th Commandment" in the best pop instrumental performance category. With the Blind Boys, he was nominated for best gospel performance slate for the title track, while the album was listed in the best traditional soul gospel album field.
"It's something that's still so new that I'm still taking it in," Harper admits when asked for his reaction to the nominations. "It's amazing and my family's really excited and I'm beyond excited. I'm just kind of taking it in stages. I wake up and I say, 'What? Is this...? It can't...' You know, I'm waiting for somebody to give me a swift kick and wake me up."
Although he says he and the Blind Boys have an "organic and natural connection," and that he's open to future collaborations with his friends, there are no plans at present to record another album in the vein of "There Will Be a Light."
"This was something so special I'd almost not want to try," Harper says. "I mean, of course I would, but at the same time, of course I wouldn't. Because, this record was something that just happened to us, as much as from us and to try to do that again, it's possible, but it would have to sort of just once again happen."
The album has also prompted offers to collaborate with several other artists Harper politely declines to identify, while his participation in October's Vote for Change tour has fellow activists pining for his talents and help in influencing the country's political direction.
Although he'd jump at the chance perform with the Blind Boys during February's Grammy Awards ceremony if asked, in the short term Harper is taking a self-imposed indefinite break from his career and committing to spending time with his family. "Being a grown-up is an extreme sport!" he says emphatically with a laugh. "That's just the bottom line. Being a grown-up is just full on.
"I mean, that's where I am -- there's no middle ground for me," he explains. "I have devoted so much, the scales are so unbalanced with music and the rest of my life that it's time. I've got to completely do a 180 [degree turn] towards the rest of my life at the moment."
Even in his down time Harper is writing songs every day and says reconvening with the Innocent Criminals is a foregone conclusion. "I just don't know when. Probably it'll end up being sooner than later, but possibly later than sooner," he says with a laugh.