Ben Harper to play Forum Karlín

New album with the Innocent Criminals reflects social issues

It would be a crime to miss Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals when they come to Prague’s Forum Karlín on Sept. 28, 2016, at 8 pm.

Guitarist and singer-songwriter Harper has worked with a number of different groups of musicians in a couple of styles. He is back again with his group the Innocent Criminals, which in April released its first new album since 2007, Call It What It Is.

The blues-rock album has 11 tracks and touches on social issues, such as police violence against the African American community. “It's important because I can't sit by,'” Harper told the Cleveland Plain Dealer when the album came out. “You tell me what my role is. To stay silent? To turn a blind eye? My role is to set my North Star so as to bring social progress.”

He told radio network NPR that he wanted to be able to look his children in the eye and say he had done something.

The first video from the album is for a song called “Shine,” and it has subtitles in seven languages and a sign-language interpreter. Harper told Entertainment Weekly that the idea was to break down communication barriers. He was curious how some of the lyrics would look in different languages.

Harper has been active with other music projects, but had not recorded with the Innocent Criminals in a long time. “Making music again with the Innocent Criminals has been a priority for a while now … It was time,” Harper told music magazine Rolling Stone in 2015.

Harper is the son of an African American father and a Jewish mother grew up in the music world. His first musical influence was his grandparents, who ran a music store called the Folk Music Center and Museum. Harper began playing slide guitar as a teenager, inspired by Robert Johnson.

He started his career in 1994 with his album Welcome to the Cruel World, and to date has 13 studio albums. He has won three Grammy Awards — two in 2005 for Best Pop Instrumental Performance for 11th Commandment and for Best Traditional Soul Gospel Album for There Will Be a Light, and in 2014 for Best Blues Album for Get Up.

His work with the Innocent Criminals began in 1999 with Burn to Shine and continued with the 2001 live album Live From Mars and then two albums in 2007, the studio effort Lifeline and the live album Live at Twist and Shout.

The Innocent Criminals are made up of Harper on vocals and slide guitar, along with percussionist Leon Mobley, drummer Olivier Charles drummer, bassist Juan Nelson, guitarist Michael Ward and keyboard player Jason Yates.

The current tour will take Harper and his band across the US and then into Europe, starting in Denmark on Sept. 22. He will end up the tour in Australia and New Zealand in November and December.

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