An international roots man |

An international roots man

Wren Wertin
Special to the DailyHarper has achieved a reputation for harmonica prowess, but songwriting is his first priority.

The Aussie-born, harmonica-toting, song-writing vocalist is wrapping up his U.S. tour this week, and will be playing for the crowd at Half Moon Saloon in West Vail tonight at 10.

The musician is a national staple in Australia, but began touring North America a few years ago. He’s grown a steady fan base; he loves the support Americans give to live music.

“Americans seems to like live music better, it’s part of your culture,” he said. “Everyone from 21 to 70 still goes out in America. Nobody else likes live music like you all… except Germans. They are unbelievable, they go crazy for music.”

Which is perhaps why he’s just signed to a German record label, making the transition from indie to big company. Harper is touring in support of his latest album, “Live at St. Andrews.” A roots rock experience with a heavy twist of innovative blues, it mixes Motown grooves with English blues-rock.

“What is really important to me is the bass and the drums, how they work together,” he explained.

Harper considers himself a singer/songwriter first and foremost, though his harmonica stylings have earned him international recognition. Called “the Jimi Hendrix of the harmonica” by John O. Hall, Harper plays a little bit dirty, a little bit funky.

“The harmonica has always been secondary to me,” he said. “Lyrics are really important, I try to write interesting stories in my songs. I don’t want to preach, but perhaps suggest things.”

Though it’s roots music, it’s not just American roots. It’s his own blend of cross-continental roots music, England and Australia included.

“I certainly don’t try to come over here and play American songs,” he said. “And fortunately everyone loves it. It amazes me that at some festivals I’ll be the only one playing my own music. It’s my own stuff that I write. It’s refreshing, soul, blues, rock – I try to put it all in there.”

Harper has fallen in with the festival crowd, and has played Telluride a few times. He’s looking at playing a festival in Bosnia next year. This marks his fifth Colorado tour in seven years.

Harper will be putting on a show at the Half Moon Saloon tonight. For more information call them at 476-4314.

Wren Wertin can be reached via e-mail at or phone at 949-0555 ext. 618.

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