Monday, 12 January 2015

"It don't take me no three days to record no album." The Music of Benjamin Booker

The feeling you get from hearing twenty five year old Benjamin Booker's music aside from the authenticity of his playing, the wonderful mix of soul and blues, that pledge of coming direct from the dirt brown floor of some dingy dive where puddles of booze fill the hollows, is the sheer sense of joy and liberating noise this sound makes. It is a rough-around-the-edges music driven by harsh chords and a rocket fuelled rhythm section over which a distinctive voice sings in a singularly individual way.  
 
 
I first caught wind of this young mans talent from a friend of mine, Charlotte Rodgers, who had three of his songs pasted on her Facebook page. (Yes, FB is crap but still manages to do some good once in awhile).


Coming from Virginia Beach is not thought of being the hot bed of American blues nor is it the well spring from where Soul or R'n B sprung. That said, and with those influences apparent, here is a man whose voice is as good as any of the old masters, whose guitar playing, energised as it is, abrasive and yet healing by turns, is something of note. Raw is an overused term often applied to the likes of anything vaguely 'Americana' but, and accuse me of having a limited vocab if you want, that word, raw, applies to this musician's work.
 
I may be accused of promoting something that is very old school. Fine. Do I look like I care? Sometimes we need, I certainly do, a return to the roots of where modern music, black as coal, black as soul, comes from. The only criteria I place on such an output is that it should be, much like Seasick Steve, authentic but more importantly, relevant. Mister Brooker covers both options masterfully. Yes, the old bones come strolling out, the John Lee's, the Lightning Slim's, the Bessie Smiths but along with those pioneers and what we still listen to today come Marc Bolan and Punk flashing their glitter and awesome energy. It is an intoxicating brew, heady stuff that struts along able to start your boot heels dancing, you fingers tapping and may even get granddad showing us how to boogie.
 
Benjamin's first album was released in August 2014 and was eponymously titled. It followed on from 2012's EP "Waiting Ones." It has proven to be a revelation in that it has given us someone new playing something old as though he had himself discovered it. Such passion, in the light of so many bands, fans and acts desperately trying to seek a depth of emotion, is a blistering riposte. Having said that Benjamin Booker is no Sex Pistols. He is not here to kick up a media storm, he is just here to dust down his broom.
 
There is no shoe gazing evident here, no intellectual process involved in either production of performance. What you get here is pure joy in the music being made. Simple.
 
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Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.

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