I first discovered Portland native Corey Harper back in 2016, when he opened for Justin Bieber on the West Coast leg of his “Purpose Tour.” Strapped with a guitar, Harper managed to command and impress an arena full of die-hard beliebers. So when he returned to Portland the following year (he now lives in LA) to play a nearly sold-out show at Mississippi Studios, I decided to slide through and see what his solo concerts were all about. As I stood among a hometown crowd of his loudest fans/friends/family members, I became increasingly smitten with Harper’s understated vocals, blues-affected guitar solos, and the passion he brought to the songs from his On the Run EP, as well as an arsenal of stellar covers.
Harper’s follow-up EP Barely Put Together was released August 2 on AWAL Recordings. The project is five tracks of folk rock/Americana that illustrate his rocky but rewarding journey to self-discovery.
Throughout, the 24-year-old’s influences are clear: He’s like a less bluesy John Mayer. Or a more guitar-prone Justin Bieber. Or a prettier Ben Howard. From the pop-infused opening track “Blind” (detailing the pains of a long-distance relationship) to its remorseful closer “Best of Me,” a lot of this (especially “Don’t Hate Me”) is radio-ready, and all of it is excellently recorded.
Harper ramps up the country twang on the somber “Dried Blood,” while album highlight “Better” is packed with soulful guitar riffs and Harper’s empowering message to embrace ourselves fully, even when we don’t have the answers. Harper himself dubbed the song an “anti-hypeman anthem,” and in the chorus he sings, “I don’t have my shit together/But I think I like it better/Knowing that I don’t have to hide it/Everyone’s just so fair-weathered/Oh I think I like it better/Better, knowing I don’t have it all together.”
And surprisingly, just hearing him repeatedly sing “better, I feel better” in a pleasing falsetto does make me feel better about not having my shit together.
While Harper’s not exactly breaking the mold here, Barely Put Together is a solid effort that gives him even more ammo for his already outstanding live act.