Get ready to embark on an introspective exploration of the musical roots from which Ben Harper has developed in his fifth studio album, Diamonds on the Inside. Backed by his band, the Innocent Criminals, Harper courageously experiments with a wide range of sounds, including reggae, Delta Blues, funk, gospel, hard rock and world music. It is a difficult task to effectively blend so many diverse styles in a single album and, as a result, Diamonds may not be perfectly polished. Harper should be commended for his noble endeavor to produce a stylistically eclectic album, but he seems to only scrape the surface of the genres, and therefore gets trapped playing into the stereotypes of each. With that being said, there are a few tracks that outshine the rest. Reggae track, "With my Own Two Hands" provides a spirited opening to the album, while "Brown-eyed Blues" and "Bring the Funk," head in a funky direction that highlight Harper's strengths as a musician. Harper fans are reminded of previous ballads like "Waiting for an Angel" in "Amen, Omen," in which Harper's acoustic side emerges, fueled by raw emotion, poetic lyrics, and a voice most wouldn't mind singing them to sleep at night. The album reaches a low when we encounter Harper's hard rock songs, which feel a little forced and therefore contribute least to his array of styles. Later on in the album, Harper assumes a spiritual tone in "Picture of Jesus," which is done a cappella with vocals from Ladysmith Black Mambazo. If you can get over the fact that you have all of a sudden been transported to Africa, after traveling through Dixieland, the Carribean, and Hard Rock USA, then this song will be both beautiful and powerful. Despite the album's stylistic deviations, it holds together with an uplifting message and emotional honesty expressed through inspirational lyrics, captivating guitar, and the gravity of Harper's angelic, soul-drenched voice.


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