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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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1
Rod Picott
70 pts.
Out Past The Wires
Welding Rod Music
GC,AN,LM,SZ,TK
2
JW Roy & The Royal Family
62 pts.
A Room Full Of Strangers
Royal Family Records
EM,PJ,DH
3
Steph Cameron
61 pts.
Daybreak over Jackson Street
Pheromona
ML
4
JD McPherson
54 pts.
Undivided Heart & Soul
New West
AR,RK,LK
5
Sarah Morris
53 pts.
Hearts In Need Of Repair
Independent
 
6
Turnpike Troubadours
52 pts.
Long Away From Your Heart
Bossier City Records
MA,GF
7
Chris Hillman
51 pts.
Bidin' My Time
Rounder
 
8
Hayward Williams
39 pts.
Pretenders
Why River Records
KG,JB,JBO
9
Joe Henry
38 pts.
Thrum
Ear Music
 
10
Jim White
37 pts.
Waffles, Triangles & Jesus
Loose Music
JJ
12
Margo Price
35 pts.
All American Made
Third Man Records
 
11
Mark Martyre
35 pts.
Rivers
Independent
MF
13
Mavis Staples
32 pts.
If All I Was Was Black
Anti
HO
 
Peter Oren
32 pts.
Anthropocene
Western Vinyl
RB,HB
15
Fred Wickham
29 pts.
Mariosa Delta
Thirty Days Records
 
16
Jeffrey Martin
27 pts.
One Go Around
Fluff & Gravy Records
HDB
17
Blitzen Trapper
25 pts.
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JDO
 
Jeff Crosby
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Postcards From Magdalena
At The Helm Records
FCE,FC,JS
19
Dori Freeman
24 pts.
Letters Never Read
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Hardpan
24 pts.
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Blue Rose Records
WR
21
The Deep Dark Woods
21 pts.
Yarrow
Six Shooter
JF
22
Lilly Hiatt
20 pts.
Trinity Lane
New West
TJ
 
Tom Russell
20 pts.
Folk Hotel
Frontera Records-Proper Records
JAB
24
Eilen Jewell
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MW
25
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18 pts.
Incompatible Things
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