A few hundred fans packed into NYC's tiny Rockwood Music Hall to see Ben Harper and his mother Ellen sing all of the songs on their forthcoming joint album, "Childhood Home," on Monday (April 21).
Ben, in an off-white hat that shaded his expressive face as he sang, and Ellen, perched on the edge of a plain wooden chair, brought the album's ten heartfelt folk-hued songs of love, family and the American farmer to life in the intimate Lower East Side space, performing on acoustic guitars, banjo and piano, while backed by an acoustic trio. The pair's voices blended as only those who share blood can.
"I took memories for granted until I turned 40," Ben said before easing into the wistful "Memories of Gold," which elicited an amused, knowing smile from his mother at his side. Among those memories, thoughts of the pair's hometown out in the desert near Palm Springs, Calif. had inspired the pensive "City of Dreams," Ellen Harper shared, with Ben adding that either she, he, or both had written the "Childhood Home" songs. Ellen, for her part, largely let her delicate vocals do the talking, though she did briefly admit she was a bit nervous to audition those new songs with her veteran singer/songwriter son. She needn't have been: the duo's 45-minute set put the music in an ideal context in which to be fully heard.
"Childhood Home" is due on May 6, fittingly just in time for Mother's Day.