Flyinshoes Review

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www.benbullington.com

This is the third album in for Montana based Ben Bullington and he's assembled a stellar bunch of musicians to help him present this latest batch of songs. Recording at George Bradfute's Tone Chapparal, outside Nashville, is itself a sign of high quality as far as I'm concerned. But if George at the helm wasn't enough, how's about this for a collection of sidemen? Amongst others, there's Fats Kaplin, Kenny Malone, Will Kimbrough, Dave Jacques and Rodney Crowell. With musicians of that calibre you can be sure it's worth paying attention to all that's going on. The focus of the production is very much on the songs and on Ben's singing of them; he has a warm, throaty singing style reminiscent of Guy Clark at times. Nonetheless, there's some glorious touches in the background, whether it's George Bradfute's clarinet playing on 'Yankee Girl' or Fats Kaplin's pedal steel playing, especially on 'Cheyenne Range' where he evokes the wide open spaces in the way that only a pedal steel can. In fact, that whole arrangement on 'Cheyenne Range' is quite wondrous, with lots of resonating bass notes giving a fantastic warmth and depth to the sound.

Ben's eleven songs deal in a homely and gentle way with the world he lives in and the people in his life; he observes things with a sympathetic eye and tells stories of the lives being played out around him. He tends to observe and remain outside the story himself and this gives his work an air of poignant reflection rather than of direct emotional involvement. The arrangements tend to match this gentle detachment; no big surging tunes here, just beautifully constructed ambience to set Ben's stories against. You can easily hear that these songs would sound just fine in solo performance. There's beauty in Ben's own playing and bags of character in his singing. As far as his writing is concerned, I believe I can hear echos of other American folk favourites in the style of each song, and maybe Ben's still inching toward his own distinctive style - and maybe that will become known as the Montana sound.
John Davy


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Year 2016

1
Levi Parham
90 pts.
These American Blues
Music Road Records
GC,JBO,TK
2
Martha Fields
86 pts.
Southern White Lies
Independent
BP,BH,FB,JAB,RW,SP
3
Carter Sampson
75 pts.
Wilder Side
Independent/CRS
AN,CRS,JB
4
Anna Elizabeth Laube
65 pts.
Tree
Ahh...Pockets! Records
DH,NC
5
Michael McDermott
60 pts.
Willow Springs
Pauper Sky Records
BK,MM
6
Shovels & Rope
54 pts.
Little Seeds
New West
 
7
Robert Ellis
53 pts.
Robert Ellis
New West Records
DHO
8
Sturgill Simpson
52 pts.
A Sailor’s Guide to Earth
Atlantic Records
JJ,JF
9
Douglas Greer
50 pts.
Baja Louisiana
Zilker Park Records
HDB,ML
10
Lucinda Williams
46 pts.
The Ghosts Of Highway 20
Highway 20 Records
EM
11
Buddy Miller & Friends
44 pts.
Cayamo Sessions at Sea
New West Records
 
12
Wink Burcham
43 pts.
Cleveland Summer Nights
Continental Song City
 
13
Eric Brace & Peter Cooper
42 pts.
C&O Canal
Red Beet Records
BR
14
Brent Cobb
41 pts.
Shine On A Rainy Day
Elektra Records
HH
 
Daniel Romano
41 pts.
Mosey
New West
CVL
 
Leonard Cohen
41 pts.
You Want it Darker
Sony Music
HO
17
Christian Kjellvander
40 pts.
A Village: Natural Light
Tapete Records
BM
18
Drive-By Truckers
39 pts.
American Band
ATO Records
AR,EZ
19
Birds of Chicago
38 pts.
Real Midnight
Five Head Entertainment
LM,SZ
20
John Prine
37 pts.
For Better, or Worse
Oh Boy Records
FS,MB
21
The Cactus Blossoms
36 pts.
You’re Dreaming
Red House Records
GS,HD
22
Richmond Fontaine
35 pts.
You Can’t Go Back
Décor Records
FCE
23
Gillian Welch
34 pts.
Boots No.1: The Official Revival Bootleg
Acony Records
LK,PR,TJ
24
Sarah Jarosz
33 pts.
Undercurrent
Sugar Hill
RM
25
Joe Purdy
32 pts.
Who Will Be Next?
Mudtown Crier Records
AL
 
The Devil Makes Three
32 pts.
Redemption & Ruin
New West

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