Published On: Wed, May 14th, 2014

Ben Harper’s Homey Album

The three times Grammy winner musician teams up with his mother for his aptly-named 12th album, “Childhood Home”.

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Ben Harper has had quite a Mother’s Day lined up for his fans this year. The artist’s new album, “Childhood Home” – which hit the stores just a few days earlier – sees the first album-length collaboration between him and his very own musician mom, Ellen.

The album, released under Prestige Folklore, features ten tracks about the good, bad, ugly and beautiful parts of home and family life, with four tracks written by Ellen Harper, and six by Ben.

“My mom and I making a record together is something we have talked about doing for a very long time, ” Harper told Rolling Stone. “I guess you could say a lifetime.”

Ellen, a songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and the manager of Claremont’s Folk Music Center and Museum, put her professional musical ambitions on hold to raise three boys. It was her, as well as her parents – who established the music center, where a young Harper would spend many afternoons familiarizing himself with countless instruments and a variety of artists – who encouraged Ben to pursue music.

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“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. I think he just absorbed a lot of it, ” Ellen said in a statement. “It was in his environment, everywhere, because I used to play in bands, and he used to hang out with us all the time.”

The songs picked to be included in the album were carefully chosen by mother & son out of a stack written over the last 17 years by both, in order to create a cohesive, well-rounded piece. “We created a body of work”, Ellen Harper told Brian Heater, of Boingboing.org. “Like in the old days, when an album was a body of work – a collection of work, and there was a commonality to the songs. And I think just basically because of our upbringing and background in music, I think that’s where it wanted to go, back to those days.”

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“Childhood Home” follows “Get Up!”, Harper’s collaborative effort with harmonica maestro Charlie Musselwhite, which won the duo a Grammy for Best Blues Album. After the victory, Harper spoke briefly about “Childhood Home”, telling Rolling Stone, “It’s produced like early Elvis. 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.”

You can listen to the album’s opening track, made available on SoundCloud, here:

Ben Harper is a three-time Grammy Award winner, known for his guitar-playing skills, vocals, live performances and activism. He was born in Pomona, California, to a Cherokee-ancestry, African-American father, and a Jewish musician mother.

In the early 1990’s Harper secured a lifetime record deal with Virgin Records, who released his debut album, “Welcome to the Cruel World” in 1994. He has since released 11 more solo albums, collaborated with a variety of artists, and formed a band with George Harrison’s son, Dhani, called Fistful of Mercy.

In 2003, he was selected as French Rolling Stone magazine’s “Artist of the year”. In 2005, he won two Grammy Awards – for Best Pop Instrumental Performance and Best Traditional Soul Gospel Album. In 2014, he received his third, when his collaborative album with Charlie Musselwhite, “Get Up!”, won Best Blues Album.

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