Watch Ben Harper play Ed Helms' custom Gene Autry acoustic in spellbinding kitchen duet with Jack Johnson

Ben Harper (left) and Jack Johnson perform the song Yard Sale together
(Image credit: Ben Harper/YouTube)

Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Ben Harper is set to release his latest studio album, Wide Open Light, this Friday (June 2).

Wide Open Light's lead single was a mournful acoustic ballad called Yard Sale. A duet with Harper's friend (and fellow multi-platinum singer-songwriter) Jack Johnson, the song documents the final dying embers, and aftermath, of a relationship with piercing clarity.

It's an understated number that needs space to be properly appreciated, which is part of what makes Harper's newly-released performance video of the song so good. 

The video – which you can watch for yourself below – finds Harper and Johnson seated at a kitchen table, acoustic guitars in hand, playing the song together with the unhurried, warm air of two old friends playing on a front porch or seated 'round a campfire.

There are no theatrics here, just clean, delightful fingerpicking from two veterans who play exactly what the song needs, and nothing else. Fans of folk titans like Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, and indie A-listers like Wilco and The Tallest Man on Earth, will find plenty to like here.

“I didn’t have a guitar at my house (which is rare) but I was able to borrow [a] 1950’s cowboy guitar from my good pal Ed Helms, and the sound went quite well with Jack's larger-bodied guitar,” Harper tells Guitar World.  

“My approach to the song was to tell a story that Hank Williams, Leonard Cohen and the Everly Brothers would be entertained by.”

Though Harper didn't go into further specifics about the instrument in his hands, it looks a whole lot like a Sears/Roebuck Gene Autry acoustic that Helms (most well-known for his roles in The Hangover and the American version of The Office) has previously shown off in interviews.

Helms' Autry guitar, in particular, was custom-fitted at some point with sturdier bracing – and a new fretboard and bridge – to better its tone, playability, and durability. As Harper points out, it provides a nice sonic (and visual) contrast to Johnson's larger Cole Clark model.

To preorder Wide Open Light, and get a look at Harper's full forthcoming live itinerary, visit his website. 

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Jackson Maxwell

Jackson is an Associate Editor at He’s been writing and editing stories about new gear, technique and guitar-driven music both old and new since 2014, and has also written extensively on the same topics for Guitar Player. Elsewhere, his album reviews and essays have appeared in Louder and Unrecorded. Though open to music of all kinds, his greatest love has always been indie, and everything that falls under its massive umbrella. To that end, you can find him on Twitter crowing about whatever great new guitar band you need to drop everything to hear right now.