Who is Benjamin Bassford?
Well unfortunately we cannot tell you an awful lot about Benjamin Bassford. We can tell you that he is from a village just outside Mansfield. So… we can tell you nothing whatsoever about Mansfield. We can tell you he is just 23 years old and that he names Ian Siegal, Mississippi John Hurt and Charlie Patton amongst his influences. We can tell you that he has well and truly followed in their footsteps.
Okay, so to be honest it’s not an album we were getting excited about, I mean we didn’t even know it was coming. But boy are we grateful we’ve picked it up. Benjamin first hit our radar properly in the buildup to the Great British Rock & Blues Festival at Skegness. Since then he has touched base with us and sent us a copy of his forthcoming album. Selling yourself is always the hardest, but best way.
Album Launch – Sheffield – April 6th
So the Benjamin Bassford album is available from April the 6th and he is holding an album launch event at the Dorothy Pax in Sheffield that evening. You can find tickets for the event here, and no doubt there will be lots of copies of the album to pick up on the day.
So we were fortunate enough to receive the album and a press release which says the following:
“This is more than just a Self-Titled release, this is an intimate soundscape that encapsulates all that you would expect from an honest acoustic solo album by Benjamin Bassford.
Recorded in the curated wilderness of his family garden, Benjamin has brought this recording right back to where he began playing. Each track is ingrained with the true soundscapes of the gardens natural elements, from the sound of wind & rain, to the call of the nearby birds.
Beautifully harmonious & all at once undeniably raw, the album once again seems comprised by the bitter sweetness of real life. Each song as honest & open as one would expect from a singer-songwriter of this nature, but each also with its own recoiled coating of something else; just a hint of something more than raw depravity.
The songs are personal, the recording is personal & even the artwork encapsulates the elements of the debut full album, this truly is a deliberate, Self-Titled Soundscape.”
Although it reads like a menu at a Vegan restaurant I have to say we were more than a little bit intrigued thanks to some descriptive language. We were also a little bit more than baffled as to what a “Soundscape” actually is. A Soundscape we have found is “a piece of music considered in terms of its component sounds.” Okay that cleared it up. Possibly.
Anyway we need to get this back on track, after those suspenseful sentences we decided to finally press “play”. What a beautiful departure the music is from the soundscape anxiety we had created in our heads. True the album is raw, it is honest and open in its lyrical content and it really is beautifully harmonious. But what Benjamin’s own album description fails to mention is that it is hauntingly rootsy, in a Robert Johnson or acoustic Clapton/JJ Cale sort of way. It hints in places of Americana, it leans towards Country in others, and it drops into all out Bluegrass in elements of each and every song.
I’m being a touch unfair because I do get the whole soundscape thing really. The album’s component songs are linked together by the natural sounds of the wind, the rain, birdcalls and more, there is no real break between songs. Each track is like a verse in a bigger, longer story-telling song. It is a lot like Dylan before Dylan was cool, and a bit like Dylan long after he was cool. Except this is cool, and it’s tremendously mellow. Crack open a beer why don’t we.
There is a definite peak in the album at the start, as the opening track Second Hand Bridges is by a country-mile our favourite. A nine-minute feast of acoustic genius, spellbinding at times. The lyrics are quick, but not thick and fast. The breaks are adequate enough for the Ian Siegalesque guitar strumming to come to the fore. The experience at play in the guitar arrangement shines through despite Bassford’s age.
Despite the peak early doors, its not like the other 12 songs are all filler, a slow road to nowhere. No, not at all. The technically sound Veins is another demonstration of superb guitar work. Just a few lyrics here, the acoustic melodies are playing over bird calls. Charming. Baby Broke My Fever has a very traditional feel to it, Self-Medication Blues is a touch too slow for us, but that is just taste. Lost On St Martins has an almost Paul Simon lyrical feel to it, the whole arrangement itself in fact.
V.S.C is a feast of finger-picking mixed with some proper blues singing, the instrumental For The Birds breaks the album up before the very delicate Red Mist. Velvet is a spoken word intermission that passed us by a bit, we cant tell you what that is all about. We did like the line “the wine like most things in his life was cheaper than first appeared”, funny. Death O Grace is another eerily slow one, with atmosphere and more acoustic flair.
The album finishes splendidly with the elegant Red-Eyed Night before the very gentle Waltz Away. The 13th track Dawn is just the sounds of his garden, some garden I have to say by the sounds of it – unless he has got a mic in the middle of a nature reserve.
Well what more can I say about this “one man and his garden” album. Its no epic thats for sure, but its content certainly travels like a book. An engaging and suspenseful read too. But in terms of its musical content, well the guitar playing is full of finesse, the youthful vocals whilst not littered with overpowering confidence were dependable, solid and melodic.
This album will be popular with those who hear it for the same reason I like it. The guitars, the vocals, the sounds, the atmosphere – they all remind me of home. We encourage our readers to check this album out, and definitely to pop in and see him on the 6th of April. On this evidence he knows his trade very well and we look forward to finding out an awful lot more about the man behind the music.
Benjamin is one for the future, touches of R.L. Burnside flow out of his sounds, as does Mance Lipscomb and elements of Tom Waits. That is very good company to keep. Benjamin, well done. Now everybody go away and vote for him for Young Blues Artist Of The Year in this year’s UK Blues Awards. Oh, and buy this album when it drops!
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