Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals are gearing up for a spring tour that kicks off April 28 at the Orpheum Theater in New Orleans. The recently announced dates cover little more than a week but include stops in Mobile, Ala.; Orlando, Fla.; St. Petersburg, Fla., and Jacksonville, Fla. The run wraps (for now) on May 6 at The Tabernacle in Atlanta. Presale is currently under way for all shows, and the official on-sale starts Friday, Dec. 2, at 10 a.m., except for the New Orleans date, which goes on sale at noon local time. More info can be found at Harper’s website.
The 47-year-old Harper has built an eclectic career for himself since arriving on the scene with 1994’s Welcome to the Cruel World. He’s existed on the periphery of the singer-songwriter circuit and the jam-band scene, while carving out a niche with a catalog that mines folk, blues and soul, occasionally all at the same time. He joined forces with blues harmonica player Charlie Musselwhite on 2013’s Get Up! and recorded an album with his mother Ellen, 2014’s Childhood Home. Perhaps best-known for his 2000 hit “Steal My Kisses,” which featured beat-box backing courtesy of one-time Roots associate Rahzel, Harper returned in 2016 with Call It What It Is, an album that made the top 20 of the Billboard 200.
In a review of the album, American Songwriter remarked, “It’s encouraging to hear that someone other than Neil Young is still carrying the torch for contemporary artists lashing out at social and political injustices, just like in the good old ‘60s.” The album’s title track is perhaps the most pointed, responding to the recent tensions between law enforcement and the black community. “They shot him in the back/Now it’s a crime to be black/So don’t act surprised/When it gets vandalized,” he sings, later name-checking Trayvon Martin, Ezell Ford and Michael Brown.
Harper is currently in the midst of a tour of Australia and New Zealand that wraps Dec. 4 in Wellington. His lone remaining date is an acoustic appearance at Bimbo’s 365 Club in San Francisco, a benefit for New Light India’s Boys Home Project, an organization based in India that provides services for girls and women in Kalighat, a city known for its red light district. “My wife Jaclyn has visited Urmi and the children of New Light many times over the years and I am grateful that she has brought this critical issue to my attention,” Harper says on his website. “I am excited to put another concert on for this important cause."