Flyinshoes Review

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FEATURED ARTIST MAY/JUNE

FEATURED ARTIST


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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May 2016

1
Hayes Carll
72 pts.
Lovers and Leavers
30 Tigers
HDB,LK
2
Sturgill Simpson
62 pts.
A Sailor’s Guide to Earth
Atlantic Records
HH,HB,FCE
3
Hackensaw Boys
50 pts.
Charismo
Free Dirt Records
BM
4
Kacy & Clayton
49 pts.
Strange Country
New West
HO,JSM
5
Dave McGraw & Mandy Fer
48 pts.
Off-Grid Lo-Fi
Dave & Mandy Music
KG,SZ
6
Carter Sampson
46 pts.
Wilder Side
Independent/CRS
PJ
 
Michael Fracasso
46 pts.
Here Come The Savages
Blue Door Records
CVL,DHO,LM,RB
8
Slobberbone
43 pts.
The Bees and Seas
New West
BK,FC,RK,MVP
9
Luther Dickinson
42 pts.
Blues & Ballads Vol. 1 & 2,
New West Records
TJ
 
Wink Burcham
42 pts.
Cleveland Summer Nights
Continental Song City
MM,CRS,AN,JD
11
Richmond Fontaine
35 pts.
You Can’t Go Back
Décor Records
 
12
Robbie Fulks
33 pts.
Upland Stories
Bloodshot Records
BR,PK
13
Grant-Lee Phillips
30 pts.
The Narrows
Yep Roc Records
 
14
Thomas Hine
29 pts.
Some Notion Or Novelty
THM Records
NC,EZ
15
Birds of Chicago
28 pts.
Real Midnight
Five Head Entertainment
FS
 
Rodney DeCroo
28 pts.
Campfires On The Moon
Tonic Records
JJ
17
Cale Tyson
27 pts.
Careless Soul
Clubhouse Records
AR,BH
18
Brooks Williams
26 pts.
My Turn Now
Crimp
GC
 
Mountain Heart
26 pts.
Blue Skies
Compass Records
JB
 
The Wood Brothers
26 pts.
Paradise
Blue Rose Records
 
21
Kelley McRae
25 pts.
The Wayside
Independent
 
22
Wild Ponies
23 pts.
Radiant
No Evil Records
JS
23
Hidden Agenda DeLuxe
21 pts.
Pan Alley Fever
Continental
 
 
Left Arm Tan
20 pts.
Lat Lorene
Independent
DH,MF
24
Margo Price
20 pts.
Midwest Farmer's Daughter
Third Man Records
JR
 
The Mystix
20 pts.
Rhythm and Roots
Independent
MP

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