Deep, Dark and Delightful Celtic Americana.
We’ve been fans of this Northern Irish singer-songwriter since we first saw him opening for Mary Gauthier in 2012, when even then, lesser acts wouldn’t have let him come near the theatre for fear of being upstaged. The following year Bap Kennedy actually introduced me to him at the inaugural (and subsequently only) Belfast Skyline Festival, and Ben actually remembered that previous review in Maverick Magazine.
There’s an argument that Ben could make a handsome living sitting in a Nashville penthouse churning out co-writes with the great and good of both Music Row and the much cooler East Nashville crowd; such is his ever growing reputation as a wordsmith; but thankfully he still has ambitions of his own and SHOREBOUND is the latest in a trilogy of exciting and absorbing albums; starting with The Emigrant (2016) and the collaborative Orphan Brigade (2017) with Joshua Britt and Neilson Hubbard that both tested his metal as a songwriter and he won both times.
Now on his sixth album under his own name SHOREBOUND marks an apparent new direction for Mr Glover, as most of these songs are not just writing collaborations but most include musician friends in the recording, starting with the beautifully melodic What You Love Will Break Your Heart which has Amy Space providing luscious harmonies as Ben delivers a Country Heartbreaker Deluxe.
Several songs here genuinely stopped me in my tracks the first time I played this CD; starting with Tack #2 A Wound That Seeks The Arrow a breathtaking duet featuring a wondrous female voice that I recognised but couldn’t place; so had to look at the credits to discover it is Angel Snow; a new name to many of my readers but not those of listeners to my old radio show where her songs Gasoline and Coal & Water were Bona-fide favourites. The combination of voices evokes memories of many other famous pairings over the years; and even now a month later whets my appetite for a whole album in the same style by the same couple.
It’s no surprise that I feel exactly the same way about
Generally the ‘Guest Stars’ are happy to stand in the background, providing harmonies and intricate musicianship, which is especially the case with the Celtic-folksy Catbird Seat with Mary Gauthier, and it’s stinging pedal-steel in the background and the soft-rocker Ride The River alongside our latest RMHQ ‘discovery’ (?) Kim Richey.
When I only have limited space it’s a difficult choice to decide what to concentrate on……the amazing partnerships like the back-porch Twang of My Shipwrecked Friend alongside his friend and mine Anthony Toner and the Buffalo Springfield inspired (?) Song For the Fighting with producer Neilson Hubbard (which was a contender for Favourite Song status) or do I concentrate on the glorious songwriting and storytelling on the title track Shorebound or Kindness or the brittlely beautiful Northern Stars which includes fellow Northern Irish Alumni Malojian and Matt McGinn in the background; but who manage to create a melody that plenty of more famous American musicians have striven for for decades. This too was a contender for ‘Favourite Track status for several days!
While this album could possibly be filed under Easy Listening, it is but it’s also an album that demands that every song needs to be ‘listened to’ especially the Celtic-Country Rocker Wildfire which is exactly what the title suggests and has Popstar, Style Maker and DJ Extraordinaire Ricky Ross not just singing alongside Ben but providing the perfect foil to his distinctively warm vocal style.
There can’t be anything else to add, you must be thinking. Well there is; and it’s the Favourite Track accolade which has obviously been a very difficult decision to make as each single song here could win that award on its own merits; but I’m going for…..no….yes….no…..it’s a tie!
The first song of the two is a first for me, as the dark and moody Dancing With The Beast, a glorious almost Gothic duet with Gretchen Peters is also the title track on her own latest album which I will review later this very week! In the setting of this particular album the song provides the shade to the light most other songs provide; and played on it’s own it sounds like it should be the theme tune for a late at night Ghost Story on TV; and it just also just might be Ben Glover’s finest ever vocal performance.
The second of the pair couldn’t be any more different and goes to show the majestic way Ben Glover can not just write (or co-write in this case) a beautiful song to fit any mood that takes his fancy. The intensely fervent Keeper of My Heart which finds Ben writing and singing alongside another RMHQ Favourite, Rob Vincent esq. is the perfect way to close this amazing record; as it encompasses everything that is not just great about Roots Music in all its permutations but showcases a much undervalued talent that deserves a much wider audience than he probably already has; and would get if here were from the Americas.
#Ben Glover really is a rare talent and I can only think of one other singer-songwriter that he reminds me of; and that’s Bap Kennedy; who also managed to combine his Celtic Roots with a genuine and historic love of American Country music and do it with ease and grace. As does Ben Glover.
Released May 4th 2018