It wasn’t the Gospel songs that Oliver Charles was asked to play during The Blind Boys Of Alabama and Ben Harper sessions last spring that knocked him for a loop. It was the singers themselves. “The music fit in with what Ben has always done,” Charles says. “So the songs weren’t really different, and I was prepared for them. But I wasn’t prepared for sitting in with The Blind Boys. They don’t speak much, but when they do it shakes the walls.
“It was a huge honor to be a part of this record,” Charles says of his work on There Will Be A Light. “Once I got my head around being in there with them, it was cool and everything went like clockwork.”
Charles has played on and off with Harper since the singer’s 1995 offering Fight For Your Mind. For the new album, Oliver plays on four of the album’s eleven tracks: “Take My Hand,” “Wicked Man,” “Where Could I Go”, and a cover of Jeff Buckley’s “satisfied Mind.” Two of the other songs are performed a cappella, with drummer Rock Deadrick playing on the balance.
Charles’ years of playing live and in the studio with Harper, including tracking 2003’s Diamonds On The Inside, helped prepare the drummer for these latest sessions. “Ben’s music is eclectic,” Charles states, “and some of his songs have a Gospel feel to them, so I didn’t have to change my approach this time. Ben’s a very soulful cat, and this is very soulful stuff. It’s about laying down the best groove and being as soulful as possible.”