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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November 2017

1
JW Roy & The Royal Family
80 pts.
A Room Full Of Strangers
Royal Family Records
EM,BH,RST,LK
2
Chris Hillman
79 pts.
Bidin' My Time
Rounder
BP,FS,HD
3
Turnpike Troubadours
46 pts.
Long Away From Your Heart
Bossier City Records
HM,TK
4
Jolie Holland & Samantha Parton
36 pts.
Wildflower Blues
Cinquefoil Records
TJ
5
Eilen Jewell
34 pts.
Down Hearted Blues
Signature Sounds
 
6
Lucinda Williams
31 pts.
This Sweet Old World
Highway 20/Thirty Tigers
BR,MW
7
JD McPherson
29 pts.
Undivided Heart & Soul
New West
JS
8
Mark Martyre
26 pts.
Rivers
Independent
FC
 
Tom Russell
26 pts.
Folk Hotel
Frontera Records-Proper Records
SP
10
Anna Tivel
25 pts.
Small Believer
Fluff And Gravy Records
MG
 
Margo Price
25 pts.
All American Made
Third Man Records
JB
12
Fred Wickham
22 pts.
Mariosa Delta
Thirty Days Records
RK
 
Joe Henry
22 pts.
Thrum
Ear Music
HVB,PJ
 
Whitney Rose
22 pts.
Rule 62
Six Shooter/Thirty Tigers
 
15
Dick LeMasters
18 pts.
Incompatible Things
Longneck Road Music
HDB,JJ
 
Jim White
18 pts.
Waffles, Triangles & Jesus
Loose Music
LM,SZ
 
Peter Gallway
18 pts.
Feels Like Religion
Gallway Bay Music
CVL,DHO
18
Thomm Jutz
17 pts.
Crazy If You Let It
Mountain Fever Records
 
19
Kris Delmhorst
16 pts.
The Wild
Blue Blade Records
 
20
Daniel Crabtree
15 pts.
In The Shadow Of His Wings
Independent
 
 
Jeremy Pinnell
15 pts.
Ties Of Blood And Affection
Sofaburn Records
 
 
Julien Baker
15 pts.
Turn Out The Lights
Matador
EZ
23
Amber Cross
14 pts.
Savage on the Downhill
Independent
 
 
Chris Blevins
14 pts.
Better than Alone
Horton Records
 
 
David Rawlings
14 pts.
Poor David's Almanack
Acony Records
 
 
Grainne Duffy
14 pts.
Where I Belong
Independent
GC,RW
 
Jeff Crosby
14 pts.
Postcards From Magdalena
At The Helm Records

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