Hank Harris

Changing Channels

Hank Harris redefines his music after composing soundtracks for two television specials

What do birds and fish have to do with music?

For Hank Harris, a whole lot.

The long-time Black Hills musician, known for his work with D.D. & the Fayrohs, the Red Willow Band and as a solo artist, composed soundtracks for two South Dakota Public Television specials in the past two years.

"Hooked! The Life of a Fishing Master" explored the half-century relationship between fishing guide Richard Sleight and the Rapid City businessman Ray Hillenbrand as they troll the muskie lakes of Wisconsin.

The other film, "A Falconer's Memior," features Black Hills author and falconer Dan O'Brien.

Both soundtracks were new experiences for Harris and they changed his approach to songwriting. "I think it was very liberating, actually," says Harris, who's latest CD, "Fantasy Land," flaunts his musical evolution.

Harris says writing soundtracks forced him to find ways to convey emotions with his music in miniscule time segments. It made for pared-down, clean songwriting, and forced him as a musician to recognize the power of quiet as well as sound.

Harris says he used all that he learned in his new CD, which featured ethereal songs drenched in horns and dreamy lyrics. The CD is a departure from his earlier releases, "World Beat Cowboy" and "Here," which both leaned more toward folksy rock.

While his filmmaking experience changed his songwriting, Harris' work with musicians from the Sioux Falls band Spooncats provided the final change in his new sound.

Spooncats' Jeremy Gegg, a trumpet and keyboard player, wrote the horn segments for "Fantasy Land" after Harris provided him with a "Barebones copy" of the music. "I really just depended on my friendship with Jeremy," says Harris.

Harris will release "Fantasy Land" during a party Saturday at Smatterings n Rapid City.

The CDs can be bought by logging onto www.hankharris.com and at the following Rapid City stores: Soundbytes, Borders, Global Market and Trebleshooters.