Meet Fistful of Mercy: Harper, Arthur and Harrison
In February, when Ben Harper, Joseph Arthur and Dhani Harrison arrived at the Carriage House studio in Los Angeles’ Silverlake neighborhood, they had three days booked and zero songs to record. “I thought I was going there to add some guitars or harmonies on Joseph’s album,” says Harrison, who was invited to the session by Harper, whom he befriended at a skate park in Santa Monica. “When I got to the studio, I saw Joe and asked, ‘What songs are we going to do?’ He said we hadn’t written them yet.” After three long days, the trio had recorded the nine acoustic tracks that make up As I Call You Down — and called themselves Fistful of Mercy, after the track of the same name. “I never thought we’d pull off an entire album, [I thought] maybe we’d get an EP,” says Harper, who credits Arthur as the catalyst who pushed for three songs a day. “The three of us were able to create something we never could have done on our own.”
With three acoustic guitars and three microphones, the team worked out musical arrangements, and then retreated to different corners of the studio to write. “We were each others’ lyric police,” says Arthur. ( “It was very ‘Wilbury’ style,” says Harrison, whose late father George was a member of the Travelin’ Wilburys.) Many times, Harrison threw out lyrical themes for inspiration. “Things Go ‘Round” is a throwback to John Lennon’s “Instant Karma,” imagining a world where people are immediately accountable for their actions. When Harrison called for a blues number, the trio quickly drafted “My Father’s Son.” Says Arthur: “It’s really about the three of our voices, and the harmonies. We’re basically singing together the whole time.”
With nine acoustic and vocal tracks completed, Harrison was determined to ratchet the music up to another level. He instinctively called the legendary session drummer Jim Keltner, an old family friend. “I’d never done anything that I thought was worthy of calling Jim,” says Harrison. “We had an emotional conversation on the phone, and he heard some of the stuff we’d done, and he said he’d do it.” Keltner overdubbed percussion, Arthur added bass, and Harper (who calls Keltner the “Dalai Lama of the drums”) added some slide guitar. “These guys are so talented,” says Harrison of his bandmates, who will all hit the road together in October. “I can’t believe I get to call them my musical brothers.”
Fistful of Mercy:
* Not sure if it's my web browser or if it's a fault in the embedding code but it looks like you might have to go to the url to view second video - if you have time definitely check it out, they're great and just. Ugh words cannot describe.
I personally have been in love with Ben Harper and Joseph Arthur individually as solo artists. From the works I was first introduced ala VH1 all those years ago with Damien Rice, I fell in love with this. Next was Joseph Arthur ('In the Sun' will always be favorite of mineand mean something totally significant for life) and then the soundtrack for 'Once'. Then there was the break into something a lil different - Travis. And then Bon Iver. This seems like the natural transition to the next. I love it, and how rare it is to find in music still. So simple, raw voices harmonizing without autotune and simple musical arrangements and so...just natural I guess. It's so beautiful. Haunting. Their debut album comes out October 5th and I am eagerly anticipating it now and hope they tour nearby. Check them out, please.