Let’s pretend “Have a Cigar” refers to a birth of one of the best acoustic guitarists and singer-songwriters to come out of the UK in many years, instead of a tune from the 70s that may haunt this young man in peculiar ways. Yes, Nick Harper is Roy Harper’s son and his first band would have been his father’s, with which he toured back in 1985 with band mates that included Jimmy Page, Steve Broughton, and Tony Franklin. With that kind of heritage it may be difficult for the younger Harper to be appreciated as an artist in his own right. That seems to be the case, though he’s a phenomenal guitarist, singer, and songwriter. Don’t get us wrong, he is appreciated—just not enough.
That Bell Is There For Ringing
Harper’s 2013 release, Riven, should be that breakthrough album, a new beginning. If you like guitar and lyrics presented well, this is one of the best of that recent year. We will always live in a world where “Ring My Bell” will outsell songs like Harper’s “This is the Beginning,” but that doesn’t make one better than the other. What makes “This is the Beginning” worth hearing and rehearing is its depth and tenor. Luckily for us, sometimes lyrics have to be listened to and are worth thinking about so that songs like “Juicy Fruit Girl” reward you with new levels the more you hear it.
Growing up as he did with Gilmour and Page over for dinner, there are bound to be influences recognizable in his work. Some are surprising though, such as the CSNY sound of “Sunshine,” the Kinks sound of “The Incredible Melting Man,” and “Here Comes the Gun” with its obvious roots (though it is surprisingly more Led Zeppelin than Harrison). There are also some other clear Led Zep influences and nods such as “Pop Fiction: Origins” and “Plague of Toads.”
Nick Harper—The Beginning is Nigh
Some of the best of the fifteen songs on Riven are just Nick Harper, though. The wonderful acoustic instrumental “There Never Was” and the should-be-a-hit “Holiday on Earth” are the younger Harper’s. “This is the Beginning,” Juicy Fruit Girl,” “Reality Check,” and “X By Your Name” are all Harper sounding as well. For most careers, however, a one-hit wonder with “Holiday on Earth” would suffice.