Part harmonica wizard and part rhythmic explorer, Harper is a fiery
artist who blurs the lines between rock, blues, soul, and world music.
His latest Blind Pig release, Stand Together, is the most
artistically realized CD Harper has ever written.
The self-produced album marks the first time Harper has recorded a CD
using his Michigan-based touring band, Midwest Kind, a collaboration
that pays several dividends. For one, he was able to go deeper
into the song arrangements, incorporating some of the interplay of their
live performances. And his close relationship with his band
members enabled him to craft exactly what he envisioned his songs to be.
Though Harper has already been acknowledged as an exemplary composer,
his current songwriting has matured and his messages have become more
powerful. The greater confidence and polish that come as a result
of his non-stop touring schedule have only enhanced his considerable
skills as a singer and harmonica player. And his proficiency as a
didgeridoo player has increased dramatically since picking up the
instrument in 2004.
Art Tipaldi, the editor of Blues Revue, described Harper as
"a singer with the deep soul of Motown, a harmonica player who can graft
Sonny Boy II and Little Walter with John Popper, a songwriter who tells
his own compelling stories in an unhurried, J.J. Cale-like manner, and a
musical visionary who is unafraid to mix the didgeridoo, an important
part of his Australian indigenous culture, with infectious modern
Born in the United Kingdom, Harper's musical journey began early,
performing in brass bands playing the trumpet and euphonium. At
the age of ten, his family moved half way around the world to Perth,
Australia, and his father introduced Harper to the harp. In Perth, one
of the most isolated cities in the world, there was a thriving blues and
folk scene. The blues had a rawness, an honesty and a passion of the
soul which spoke to Harper deeply. Then, like every blues lover,
Harper began his journey backwards to discover the deeper roots of the
music, inspired by a pretty wide range of players and styles, from Muddy
Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson II and Little Walter to Sugar Blue and
But Harper did not stop his search with the blues. It was a chance
meeting with a Hopi "Dan Running Bear" in Silverton, Colorado, that led
him down the path to rediscovering the music of his homeland. Fascinated
with the spirituality and culture of the American Natives, he found the
same qualities present in the Australian Aborigines of his homeland. On
adding the native didgeridoo to his music, Harper says "It is a sound I
grew up with, so it seemed natural to add it to my songwriting
particularly when the lyrics related to the plight of the Aborigines in
Australia. When I added the didgeridoo to the more traditional blues
instruments, it worked. The deep woody qualities and its haunting drone
seemed to enhance the emotional quality of my stories. The didgeridoo is
a spiritual and healing instrument, and it seemed blues music accepted
it with open arms."
Prior to his introduction to American audiences, Harper recorded six
albums to great acclaim in his homeland of Australia, receiving multiple
Awards for "Male Vocalist of the Year," "Song of the Year," and
"Acoustic Artist of the Year." In 2003 he released Way
Down Deep Inside, named "Album of the Year" by US Magazine's Guide
to the Best of the Blues Harmonicas & Beyond, which said, "Harper
is a most refreshing musician, harmonica player/songwriter to come into
our presence. He writes music that goes to the very core of your
soul and mind with substance and thought provoking lyrics. His
songs are as meaningful as say the early Bob Dylan/Neil Young era, his
delivery/timing and phrasing are absolutely amazing."
Harper's memorable stage performances allowed him to take his music
beyond Australia. He's played in Canada, Germany, Austria,
Switzerland, Singapore, and France. In the past two years he's
built a strong following in the U.K., where Blues Matters magazine
said, "His performance on the didgeridoo showed it to be an instrument
well-suited to The Whole ethos of the genre. Its deep primordial
notes lend themselves to the roots of the Blues and beyond...Harper and
his band showed themselves to be tight, highly proficient and profound
musicians carrying on a legacy with honor and innovation."
He first started performing in the United States in 1996 and it was
on one of these tours that he caught the attention of Blind Pig, which
made him their first international signing. With a home at a U.S.
label and growing appreciation for his music from American audiences,
Harper made the permanent move to the U.S. in 2005.
Harper's first Blind Pig release and American debut, 2005's Down
To The Rhythm, won accolades from the press for its unique sound
and virtuoso performances, coupled with Harper's compositional skill.
"Harper is a crack harp player, and he plays the instrument with both
speed and efficiency, blasting into his runs with the force of a jet
stream. He is also a solid songwriter, and a soulful singer with a
knack for impassioned sincerity," said AllMusic.com.
His 2007 release, Day By Day, provided fans with another
prime example of why his unique roots music style occupies a category of
its own. Rambles raved that Harper's harp and lyrics have "a
depth of feeling and thought that is unusual in today's music.
Harper's music is primal...Harper's music is essential. It should be
widely heard." Downbeat magazine added, "Harper uses his trump
cards - a strong and direct singing voice, a stirring harmonica out of
Sonny Boy Williamson II and Little Walter, a droning didgeridoo - to
give the melodic tunes an excitement that suits his intelligent use of
blues-rock and soul forms."
Harper's animated performances have been well received at blues
festivals, world music festivals, and by fans of jam band music.
He's even been invited to perform on stage several times with the rock
band Journey. After witnessing a show last year, Chip Eagle,
publisher of Blues Revue and BluesWax,
enthusiastically offered, "Harper is the most exciting act on the live
By combining traditional and modern influences, borrowing from
western and Aboriginal music, Harper has created a highly original take
on the roots genre, which some have dubbed "World Blues." His
innovative use of electronic enhancement and feedback breaks the
traditional boundaries of the harp, giving his music its distinctive
harmonics and effects. The distorted guitars and the unique drone
of the didgeridoo create raw yet eerie sonic textures, somehow sounding
primal and contemporary at the same time.
Harper is at the top of his game on Stand Together,
showcasing his trademark virtuoso harp playing, distinctive
instrumentation, deeply soulful grooves, unparalleled songwriting, and
compelling lyrics. With his chops at their best and a band that
shares his vision, Harper will continue to turn the heads of audiences
looking for originality, honesty, passion and skill in modern roots