Ben Harper and Rhiannon Giddens

Ben Harper and Rhiannon Giddens

Ben Harper and Rhiannon Giddens

Black Eyed Dog

Anti Records

3-time Grammy award winner Ben Harper, and 6-time Grammy nominated, MacArthur “Genius Grant” recipient Rhiannon Giddens, have released their version of Nick Drake’s “Black Eyed Dog”. It’s a first time collaboration for these 2 artists but after hearing what they did with this piece of music, I hope for more in the very near future. While it’s very rare for me to want to listen to any Nick Drake music performed by anyone other than Nick Drake, their version is the exception to that rule. Harper on his lap steel, and Giddens on banjo, are both deeply rooted in the Americana music scenes but their paths haven’t crossed until this collaboration. Harper says “Rhiannon and I are both black purveyors of American roots music, and while this is not an anomaly, it is an exception within the subculture.” Giddens says of their kindred spirit that it “… has more to do with the spirit that we access when we play it(roots music). I felt that spirit in him right off and knew if we ever got the chance we could make something beautiful together.”

And make something beautiful together they did. Their version maintains the sparsity, and haunting nature of one of the last recorded pieces of music before Drake’s death in 1974. It’s a fitting tribute that nods to the past, and hopefully for fans of Harper and Giddens, they will discover more opportunities like “Black Eyed Dog” to work on in future collaborations.

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