Harmonica Player Harper
was centrally located and because the friendly, down-to-earth citizenry of our state reminded him of home. In Australia's far-flung cities he worked with pickup bands, but here he's developed a sound that relies on tight interplay with the members of his own group of handpicked musicians.
What sets Harper apart from the crowd is the presence in his music of the didgeridoo, which he never played in Australia. He was inspired to investigate the ponderously resonating, droning tube after a conversation in Silverton, Colorado, with a member of the Native American Hopi tribe. The didgeridoo doesn't appear in every Harper song, but at a recent concert at Ypsilanti's Savoy club he came on stage with a rack of different ones, and the most appealing aspect of his music is the variety of ways in which he incorporates the instrument into basic blues, blues-rock, and R&B frameworks.
In the Australia anthem "Big Brown Land," the didgeridoo serves an atmospheric function, quietly framing the verses with low buzzes, but elsewhere it takes a more active role. Harper uses it for solos in place of the harmonica, which adds a unique vector of contrast between tension and spiritual calm to his music, and it can also turn into a percussion instrument in a couple of different ways; it can be hit on the outside with a drumstick or made to produce explosive sounds from within.