Collaborating for the first time, Ben Harper and Rhiannon Giddens have released a new duet of the Nick Drake song “Black Eyed Dog.” Featuring Harper on lap steel and Giddens on banjo, listen to the plaintive track here.
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“Rhiannon and I are both black purveyors of American roots music, and while this is not an anomaly, it is an exception within a subculture,” Harper explained. “We have unquestionably tapped into the same creative well of influence, carrying on the tradition through our own individual instincts and perspectives.”
“I’ve been hearing and hearing about Ben Harper for a long time, but had never gotten to meet him until recently at an event in LA and I was immediately struck by a kindred spirit,” Giddens added. “Didn’t have as much to do with the kind of music we play, although we share many, many commonalities as black folk playing roots music, but more to do with the spirit that we access when we play it. I felt that spirit in him right off and knew if we ever got the chance, we could make something beautiful together.”
Rhiannon Giddens is a celebrated artist who excavates the past to reveal truths about our present. A MacArthur “Genius Grant” recipient, Giddens has also been Grammy-nominated six times. Last year she was nominated for her collaboration with multi-instrumentalist Francesco Turrisi, there is no Other (2019), an album that is at once a condemnation of “othering” and a celebration of the spread of ideas, connectivity, and shared experience. In the past month, she’s appeared on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert’s #playathome series, and performed an NPR Tiny Desk from home. She recently spoke to Rolling Stone at length about “Rewriting Country Music’s Racist History,” and was also included in VICE’s recent feature on marginalized voices in bluegrass music.
“I’ve always wanted to cover ‘Black Eyed Dog’, but the song was intimidating in its haunted perfection,” Harper continued. “Only through collaborating with Rhiannon would I have ever attempted it. When I step back from it, this collaboration should’ve happened long ago, but I’m thrilled that it’s finally here.”
Three-time Grammy Award winner Ben Harper is also working on a new album that is scheduled to come out later this year. He’s previously released 15 studio albums garnering Gold and Platinum certifications worldwide, including his latest No Mercy In This Land with revered blues legend Charlie Musselwhite. In May, Harper released the new single “Don’t Let Me Disappear,” featured in The New York Times’ The Playlist, which “is about the fine line between loneliness, isolation and invisibility, to where you can’t seem to find a way not to be hiding in plain sight,” Harper explained. The black and white video for the song features two modern dancers intertwining fluid and fragmented movements while Harper performs the song on acoustic guitar. Watch here.