It’s not often we start a review by copying off the press release, and I am only doing it here because of good cause. However, casually chucked at the bottom of the stuff that came with ‘Wide Open Light,’ it says, ‘As a 3x-GRAMMY winner, Harper has amassed international critical applause and a worldwide fan following for his own genre-traversing body of work while also producing acclaimed albums by Mavis Staples, Rickie Lee Jones, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Natalie Maines, Ziggy Marley, and others. An inveterate collaborator, Harper has also recorded with a diverse span of artists ranging from John Lee Hooker, Charlie Musselwhite, to Ringo Starr, Keith Richards, and, most recently, Harry Styles’—blimey!’
How do you follow that? Well, how about this: ‘She came to gather all of her personal effects. It seemed a bit too late for goodbye sex. Out the window, an engine idled, some guy leaning on the hood. I’m pretty sure she’s gone for good.’ That’s a lyric from the standout track ‘Yard Sale,’ featuring yet another collaboration, this time with Jack Johnson. As breakup songs go, it’s a belter, and it’s fair to say she’s probably faring better than Ben.
The album kicks off with ‘Heart And Crown,’ a track that evokes a similar feel to something by the much-missed Chris Whiteley. It carries a sense of melancholy and introspection, showcasing Harper’s ability to capture deep emotions within his music. ‘Give Up The Ghost’ follows, offering a gorgeous and evocative soundscape. The song feels windswept and fragile, as if both he and it could all fall apart at any moment.
“Masterpiece’ takes a gentler approach, radiating love and tenderness. ‘8 Minutes’ stands out with its falsetto vocals and harmonies, adding an ethereal touch to the album. ‘Trying Not To Fall In Love With You’ introduces a foreboding piano, as if Harper is warning of the dangers to himself. The title track, though, features the line ‘mistakes I am destined to repeat until I get them right,’ which may explain why it shares the album’s namesake. It captures the essence of the record, exploring themes of growth, self-reflection, and resilience.
‘One More Change’ carries a gospel-like quality. ‘Growing Growing Gone’ hides a deep sadness beneath its upbeat rhythm. ‘Love After Love’ seems to represent freedom and stoicism, serving as a powerful reminder of the transformative power of love. ‘Thank you Pat Brayer’ (and thanks to the magic of the internet, I can tell you that Patrick Brayer is a singer-songwriter whose music has penetrated the Claremont music scene) brings us back full circle with a haunting acoustic track. It serves as a poignant conclusion to the album.”
‘Wide Open Light’ is a testament to Harper’s supreme talent as a singer-songwriter. Delving into deeply personal and introspective themes, it offers a captivating and cohesive musical journey. Fans of Harper’s previous work will find much to love, and newcomers will discover a deliberately sparse yet compelling and emotive collection of songs.