September 30 (LP) / July 22 (CD). "Bloodline Maintenance" is a fearless and immensely soulful work largely inspired by the loss of a longtime friend and the lingering influence of a mercurial and charismatic father. Along with guitar and bass, Ben Harper also played the drums, including an eclectic assortment of percussions. The deliberately open spaces and accented beats influenced in large part by the exploratory rhythms of the hip-hop he has loved since his teens. The result is less a direct influence than the applying of hip-hop's inventiveness to longstanding paradigms of soul, blues and jazz, spinning it all forward into a reconfiguration of a new black Americana. "If this is my "Mule Variations", then hallelujah", Harper says, referencing the groundbreaking Tom Waits record. "Bloodline Maintenance" is both a political and personally revealing work. It is soul music, but never a stylistic tribute to some bygone era. The sound and words are essential and undeniably timely.