Acclaimed Songwriter Revisits His Celtic Roots.
As a Northern Irish Singer-Songwriter who now lives and works in Nashville, Ben Glover straddles two musical worlds that I am very passionate about.
While the majority of his work knows no International boundaries; this album is made up of songs from deep inside his very Soul.
For once I won’t start with the opening song; but the third and title track The Emigrant around which the album revolves. After living and working in America since 2009 Glover finally got his Green Card earlier this year; and got to thinking about what it meant to be an ‘Emigrant’.
Based around John McCullough’s simple and haunting piano playing Glover summons up the woes of thousands of people fleeing conflict in Africa and the Middle East for a ‘better life’ in Europe, this got him to thinking about his forefathers who emigrated to America for such a ‘better life’ and the horrors that they originally faced.
Even as an Americana UK Song of the Year Winner; I swear he will never write a finer or more heart breaking song than this…..and in the light of the current American Political climate should be played on National Radio on the hour, every hour!
Phew; back to the album itself.
With that song as a fulcrum Ben has selected four original compositions to sit alongside six traditional Folk songs that fit in with the theme; and his choices are more or less exemplary.
Opening with The Parting Glass, a traditional Folk song the mood is firmly set for a darkly beautiful evening; especially the addition of haunting Celtic instrumentation in the background.
Ben certainly goes back to his (Northern) Irish Folk roots on several songs; and on Ralph McTell’s From Clare to Here; better known as a Nanci Griffith song he manages to sound like the loneliest man on earth; surpassing every other version I own.
Somehow Ben also manages to blow new life into the Republican Anthem; Brendan Behan’s The Auld Triangle; a song he must have got sick of hearing as a teenager in the pubs and Folk clubs around the North. But here he somehow rekindles the fire Behan must have had all those years ago.
Of the new songs Dreamers, Pilgrims and Strangers encapsulates in just over a minute what poets and songwriters have failed to capture for years and the co-write with Mary Gauthier Heart in My Hand; is as good as anything the pair have written before….and they’ve written a lot.
As a regular visitor to the area I can understand Glover’s feelings when he selected The Green Green Glens of Antrim to close the album as it’s a gorgeous song in its own rite; and his sensitive treatment could easily be the basis of a beautiful TV advert.
But……by far and away my favourite song is one I only discovered myself a couple of years ago when I had a radio show. While collating tracks for a Remembrance Day/Veterans Day themed programme a friend sent me a download of a song by an Australian Folk Singer called Eric Bogle, called And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda. On hearing it that first time tears poured down my cheeks; and they did again when I heard Ben Glover’s beautiful and stark rendition.
The song was and probably still is little known outside Australia; as it documents a dark day in that countries history, when thousands of their fine young men sailed to Gallipoli in WWI and only a few returned; and like the narrator himself, many returned thinking “I never knew there were worse things than dying.”
The Emigrant doesn’t make for easy listening; and nor should it; but it is an album that I can’t recommend highly enough.
Released September 30th 2016