One Track Mind: Ben and Ellen Harper, “A House Is a Home” from Childhood Home (2014)

Ben Harper has been involved with a number of intriguing collaborative moments lately, including Ringo Starr and Charlie Musselwhite, but this is his most personal yet. Joining together with his mother Ellen Chase-Verdries, Harper has constructed a layered, emotionally resonant songcycle about the mysterious force that is a home — with much of that complexity on display inside this advance track.

“A House Is a Home,” their bittersweet rumination on the strangely personal attributes that grow up around these structures, heralds the forthcoming Childhood Home, due appropriately enough just before Mother’s Day on May 6, 2014 via Prestige Folklore.

Ellen, along with her parents, had been early proponents of Harper’s youthful interest in music. Time spent around his grandparents’ California-based Folk Music Center and Museum in Claremont put him in one-on-one situations with the likes of Ry Cooper, Taj Mahal and Leonard Cohen. By 12, Harper was playing regularly. By 21, he had appeared on one of Mahal’s recordings. Four years later, Harper had his debut album out.

But, as Childhood Home so clearly delineates, Harper never let go of his roots, never forgot where he came from. Harper’s voice pairs with his mother’s in a tangle of memory, of love, of memories both good and bad, of imperfections and of passions and of everything that binds us together with a place. And with each other, in that place.

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Nick DeRiso

Over a 30-year career, Nick DeRiso has also explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz, Ultimate Classic Rock and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.

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