Ben Harper and Rhiannon Giddens have released an acoustic cover of Nick Drake’s “Black Eyed Dog.” Featuring Giddens on banjo and Harper on lap steel, the recording is the first-ever collaboration between the two roots performers.
“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, who first met Giddens at a recent event in Los Angeles, said in a statement. “We have unquestionably tapped into the same creative well of influence, carrying on the tradition through our own individual instincts and perspectives.”
Giddens offers subtle banjo strumming on the mountain ballad. “I felt that spirit in [Harper] right off,” Giddens said of meeting the singer-songwriter for the first time, “and knew if we ever got the chance, we could make something beautiful together.”
“Black Eyed Dog” was one of the last songs Drake recorded before his death in 1974 and was first included in his posthumous 1987 compilation album, Time of No Reply. In his book A Nick Drake Companion, author Pete Paphides describes the song as “more Appalachian in style than anything else he committed to tape,” making it a fitting choice for the pair.
“I’ve always wanted to cover ‘Black Eyed Dog’, but the song was intimidating in its haunted perfection,” Harper said. “Only through collaborating with Rhiannon would I have ever attempted it.”