Ben Harper and his musician mother Ellen have teamed up for a collaborative LP, Childhood Home, set for release May 6th on Prestige Folklore. Featuring 10 original tracks (four written by Ellen, six by Ben), the album explores the comforts, pains and tribulations of home and family life through folky arrangements and the duo's earthy vocal harmonies.
Last month, Rolling Stone offered an exclusive listen of the LP's breezy opening cut "A House Is a Home," and now fans can listen to the full LP through the exclusive stream below.
Another highlight is the simmering "Born to Love You," which finds the duo harmonizing over distant piano chords and brushed snares: "Some born to lose, some born to win / They say we're all born into sin," Ben sings, "That's a hard way to begin, but I was born to love you." Elsewhere, "The Farmer's Daughter" weaves plucked banjos and snaking dobro lines into an epic, traditional-styled bluegrass ballad: "It's no joke," Ellen sings, "We're always broke and live on dirt and water."
Though bound by its acoustic framework, the album journeys in a number of directions. "It's produced like early Elvis," Ben recently told Rolling Stone. "Not one thing is plugged in. It's all acoustic. I think they're going to call it ‘Americana,' but it's soul, California, folk rock, American."
It's a logical project for the Harpers given their musical pedigree. Ben's grandparents established Claremont, California's Folk Music Center and Museum, where the young Harper spent his formative years fiddling with various instruments and hanging out with up-and-comers like Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder. At the mother-son's first show in New York last week, Ben revealed that the guitar used for the show originally belonged to his great-grandfather.
"I was a single mom, so he would come to the music store pretty much every day after school, and help out while I was working," Ellen told Rolling Stone. "I think he just absorbed a lot of it. It was in his environment, everywhere, because I used to play in bands, and he used to hang out with us all the time."
"My mom and I making a record together is something we have talked about doing for a very long time," Ben added. "I guess you could say a lifetime." Childhood Home is available for preorder at Amazon and iTunes.