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Some people might quibble with including this band in a "faces to watch" roundup. Ben Harper, its frontman, has been highly visible on the rock scene for more than a decade; his slide guitar playing and bubbling-up blues songs have made him a favorite on the festival circuit, while his marriage to Laura Dern has put him on Hollywood's radar. But Relentless 7 is a band, and it takes Harper into promising new territory.
The group has been brewing for a while. Guitarist Jason Mozersky forced a demo into Harper's hands during a tour 10 years ago. Harper was impressed, and the two became fast friends. Mozersky introduced Harper to bassist Jesse Ingalls and drummer Jordan Richardson, who also play in the band Oliver Future.
The quartet has found a groove that's heavier and more teeth-baring than Harper's usual mellowish approach -- a cover of Led Zeppelin's "Good Times Bad Times" appears on its MySpace page. But then, so does a version of "Purple Rain." Harper is clearly hoping to buy property at the very active intersection of rock and soul, perhaps catching some of the excitement that's been propelling bands like TV on the Radio.
Look for plenty of dates from this road dog and his new crew in the new year, and an album, "White Lies for Dark Times," in late spring on Virgin.
-- Ann Powers