Benjamin Booker – [Album]

Benjamin Booker – [Album]

Tuesday, 11 August 2015
ARTIST: Benjamin Booker – [Album]
DATE: 08-11-15
REVIEW BY: Bill Adams
ALBUM: s/t
LABEL: ATO Records/Maplemusic

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The thing which has been missing from both pop and rock for the last few years has been a sense of spontaneity. With the “digital revolution” has come a terrible epidemic of artists thinking too much and/or treating their work with too gentle a hand; they build (and build upon), develop and activelyproduce ideas rather than simply walking into a recording studio, plugging in, turning up and just capturing a moment. It’s an unfortunate fact too because, eventually, ANYONE can compress a rock until they come up with a diamond but new talent and a spontaneous exposition of it has become the real rare gem. Because it is so rare though, it means that those who hear such a gem will be able to recognize it right away and immediately know to treasure it. Benjamin Booker’s self-titled album is a work just like that, reader – the first listen will remove all doubts.

Even the most skeptical critics will be able to recognize the value of Benjamin Booker immediately as “Violent Shiver” rakes the album open with some classic rock guitar and galloping drums. Here, the fact that the song is a classic just waiting to be decreed as such is undeniable; Booker’s chops and style echo that of Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters and Junior Kimbrough all at once, and the results are a bit of modern magic. Here, Booker bellows beautifully about making a big, bad-ass noise and delivers one, and in doing so guarantees that listeners who miss the original Fat Possum stable of performers (T Model Ford, Junior Kimbrough, RL Burnside and Asie Payton, to begin with) will stick around for at least one song or two in order to see what else Booker’s got for them.

Those who do hang around are certainly well-rewarded. Armed with what is clearly an encyclopedic knowledge of the blues (every sound from Memphis to Chicago to New Orleans to Holly Springs can be heard in the eleven songs which follow “Violent Shiver”) and a dry rasp of a voice which wears every mile the singer has traveled so far in his career, Benjamin Booker works on listeners’ imaginations as he makes his way methodically along. In “Chippewa,” for example, listeners will still be able to smell the dried hops and whiskey splattered on the song from the night it was written on a barroom stage, and he doesn’t lose a soul when he follows that up with the heartbroken, end-of-the-night ballad, “Slow Coming.” Further down the line, Booker’s guitar gets hips swinging and grinding as the singer salutes the juke joint life as well as the women who live it in “Happy Homes” before chugging harder, faster and perfectly into rock oblivion on “Old Hearts.” Nowhere in this running does Booker leave a seam through which listeners might escape; after they’re in, they stay in and are only released by the silence at the album’s end. Listeners will find they’re fine with that too – while no two songs here exactly mine the same theme or thematic curve, they hold listeners close for just long enough that not only does it sound good, it feels good and rewarding too.

Because of the fact that it does feel good and rewarding, listeners will want to know what Benjamin Booker might have coming for them on his next record immediately as this one ends. The truth is that there is no way to know though – not exactly; this album makes for a great listen, but it’s so tightly woven together that there are no errant threads or possibilities left hanging from it. It’s a perfectly insular experience which, anywhere else, might be frustrating but, here, that the album is so tightly wound means the guitarist will be able to start fresh with anything he chooses when next he enters a recording studio. That kind of freedom and the possibilities it might yield ensures that those who hear Benjamin Booker will check back to see what’s new when they hear a follow-up is available.



Benjamin Booker’s self-titled debut album is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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