Benjamin Booker - Benjamin Booker - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Benjamin Booker - Benjamin Booker

by Rob Taylor Rating:7 Release Date:2014-08-18

Booker’s association with Rough Trade suggests an aesthetic which extends beyond the rhythm & blues template he’s so obviously comfortable in. In truth, this has probably more to do with Rough Trade’s more eclectic American interests. I could never understand the wave of interest in Gary Clark Jnr a couple of years ago. I heard bluster where others heard SRV, but as it was with blues-man Johnny Lang in 2000, even the patronage of BB King will not bring you financial success if you play strictly within the blues idiom in the United States. You have to be Joe Bombastic to get attention in the blues arena these days.

So, any new resurgence in blues music will depend upon a different type of marketability, pulling sales away from the re-issue market which traditional blues fans thirst for at Amazon and other marketplaces. It seems with new blues material, at one end of the spectrum you have the prosaic and meandering acoustic blues of Jack Johnson, and at the other the bloated and uber-slick blues rock of the aforementioned Joe. In between there are great young blues artists like Joanne Shaw Taylor, but they are little known.

Exactly where Benjamin Booker fits into the blues purgatory remains to be seen, but for his 22 years he shows the promise to break commercial barriers and make blues music people will notice. His influences are T-Rex, The Gun Club and Blind Willie Johnson, so I’m loving his potential. Blues with unrestrained power, and little apparent regard for commercial formula.

Booker’s voice is coarse, with a whiskeyed tone like Mark Lanegan but younger and less baritone. Its not a naturally beautiful voice, but is suited to the R&B leanings of songs like 'Slow Coming', and the rock/garage outings 'Violent Shiver' and 'Old Hearts'. Instrumentally, Booker has the capacity for surprise, adding Texan boogie ZZ Top-style and jazz percussion on 'Chippewa'; heavy distortion pedal on 'Slow Coming'; jaunty chords and New Orleans inspired organ on 'Happy Homes'. He’s really working those musical dimensions.

Where Booker has yet to develop is in the songwriting department, but given the right support from fellow artists and Rough Trade, he’ll be keeping the blues flag hoisted for years to come.

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