7 October 2014

Benjamin Booker - Benjamin Booker

Some men build themselves into something else.  You get mavericks which can transcend where they start from, you get people who have humble beginning and through their hard work and talent they become stars.  For the past few months, I have heard a lot about a young blues musician called Benjamin Booker.  Hailing from Virginia Beach, Virginia, USA, Mr Booker has been slowly building up a live reputation through his maverick performances (indeed, the recent performance in Newcastle upon Tyne has already started to get the "I was there" type of vibe - no, sadly I was not one of the lucky few), but I have also heard many good reports about this debut album.  But reports can sometimes be mis-leading, let’s find out if it worth the hype?

Starting with lead single, "Violent Shake" has such a simplistic opening riff, it develops with a very organic and natural pace; the energy is malleable and infectious, but there is also an easy on this song that makes it almost laid back.  It is really hard to describe without sounding like a pretentious dick, but this is quite possibly the best opening track of 2014.  "Always Waiting" is next and it is trying to take the blues back from those thieving bastards called Led Zeppelin, again it has an energy that you can practically touch.  This is a top quality song that is a boogie rock classic and should rightly be played at loud volume for all to hear.  "Chippewa" takes it down a notch - classic album tracking unlike other artists as you do not want to do a Prong a-la 'Cleansing' (cleverly linked here) and play all the high tempo numbers at the beginning.  It is another toe tapper which will have many bands wishing they had came up with such an easy listenable tune, also one that keeps the listener interested.  "Slow Coming" is more blues than boggie and shows the naked emotion that Benjamin Booker can deliver; there are blues men who have travelled roads for longer than this man who sound like pop-idol rejects compared to this.

"Wicked Waters" is a return to the rock & boogie side of Benjamin Booker musical leanings, it is a little similar to some of the early numbers of the album, but as this is the man's first album that is not a problem when it sounds as fun as this song.  "Have You Seen My Son?" is the sixth song on the album and it sounds like a hymn for the damned, the influence of the long list of blues musicians that Booker has listed as influences on his playing is evident on this song and whilst it is a little more serious on this song, there is also a punk vibe going on to this tune which takes the album in a slightly different direction, the middle break down is very interesting, especially when that heavy blues riff kicks in.  "Spoon Out My Eyes" is a heartbreaking number, it starts off a little weak but then the blues steps in for the first chorus and it makes this heart breaking sound that would make stone cry.  However, when the song goes into the boogie around the two minute mark it sort of loses something which is a crying shame as it could have been the track of the album.  It is not bad by any stretch of the imagination, but not quite there.  "Happy Homes" has a small wall of feedback which gives way to a wonderful riff that then transcends into a summer track; this is a fantastic number that would have been great for those summer nights and days.  It is a ray of sunshine that makes this autumn day feel a lot warmer.

"I Thought I Heard You Scream" is a solemn blues tune that again is aimed straight at the heart.  You would have to be either dead or an uncaring bastard to not see the sad beauty that unfolds from this number, Mr Booker sounds like he is a man who knows how it feels to have his heart broken and is showing the world that they are not alone in their sorrow.  There is a strange comfort in this, it just makes you feel a kinship with someone who you have not met but knows how you feel.  "Old Hearts" starts with a drum roll, a looping riff and then it is the boggie/blues explosion that makes this man so likeable.  It is a short, sharp, slice of rock n' roll that makes the world more bearable for the few moments that it is in the room.  "Kids Never Growing Older" is another blues number that just seems to be more organic than put together, it just feels so timeless and above all - original.  "By The Evening" is the ending song of the album, guiding the album down with a gentle acoustic strum that morphs into a full blown band jam to end the album on a high note.

This album is a brilliant debut, full of promise and energy; yes there are a few songs which could just change titles and lyrics with the same results, but this is the man's first record and it sounds like he is just trying out the water and he is starting to get a grip on what he is capable of creating.  This man can make his guitar sing like an angel and shake it's ass like a money maker.  It is an almost perfect debut with minimum filler and if his album sounds this good, his live reputation will be well deserved.  I so wish that I saw this man live now, will have to remedy that next time, just to see if the live legend is the same as his album output.

8.5 out of ten - Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my money, time and heart

You can purchase the album from Amazon here

You can visit the Benjamin Booker website here

Here is a link to Spotify to listen to the album

Here is a link for our Deezer users

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