Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite, “No Mercy In This Land”

Ben Harper is possibly the most important purveyor of the blues under the age of 50, keeping the flame alive with songs that reflect the feel and intent of artists like Robert Johnson and Skip James. For the title track of No Mercy In This Land, his second album with blues harp icon Charlie Musselwhite, Harper wrote four verses that are very much subject to interpretation, but each of which stand on their own as a statement of the human condition. Harper explained his thoughts and feelings behind the song’s verses via e-mail on the eve of the duo’s tour of the U.S. and Canada. “Each of the four verse sections is an individual plea for mercy in seemingly merciless times/circumstances. The first verse, indirectly, yet in no uncertain terms, is asking the current presidential administration, How can you claim to be any kind of believer and carry yourselves the way you do, and how will you answer for it in the event you are called upon to do so as you move on to the next plane. And what about Martin’s dream? What about the dreamers?” “The second verse section is Syria. A husband and wife or a family following the…

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