Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Ben Sollee & Daniel Martin Moore - Dear Companion (Sub Pop)

As the gnarled winter sinks its teeth into November, I often turn to great summertime music to help ebb away the cold. Thankfully, I have been granted that in shape of the latest offering from Messrs Ben Sollee and Daniel Martin Moore. Their hybrid brand of a rock, pop and blues is extremely infectious and definitely brings forth some Kentucky sunshine. It is acts like these that make you wish that you lived over the pond where this sumptuous cacophony of music must be abundant and quality artists are ten a penny, ready to play for your pleasure.

Yearning to live stateside aside, let us have a look at this quaint album entitled ‘Dear Companion’ which is Sollee’s third foray into the world of recorded music and his first as a collaborative artist. As soon as the first bars of ‘Something, Somewhere, Sometime’ roll out through the speaker, you would have to be made of pretty cynical stuff not to let a familiar smile develop across your continence and accompany it by either a tapping of the foot or a nodding of the head. The musicianship is suave and not indulgent and I love artists that prove that instruments such as the Banjo have just as much a place in modern music.

In ‘My Wealth Comes To Me’, the pace is slowed down wonderfully and it I could almost describe it as a Kentucky lullaby interposed with the cello and violin and the vocals are beautifully timed and pitched. The song gently shuffles into ‘Needn’t Say A Thing’ which sounds like a track that was tailor made to played in a niche venue like a secluded cafĂ© or a grass roots Blues bar.

What I appreciate about this album is that these songs do not outstay their welcome; they start, they deliver, they end. This is typified by ‘Wilson’s Creek’ which does its job as a intermission before we are plunged into the poignant piece where you can see the activist side of Sollee coming out in ‘Only A Song’. It is catchy, sing-along tune with a wonderful use of imagery.

The title track ‘Dear Companion’ is short but definitely sweet and is what I would describe as a hootenanny of a song. However, Solle and Moore decide to mix it up once more by slowing down the album with the introduction of ‘Flyrock Blues’ and ‘Try’, the latter one of those oddities that teases you into thinking that it is going to build into a grand crescendo. In that way, it is a little anti-climactic, but the track is still great listening.

Flyrock #2’ is a more musical harmonious affair and definitely has that taste of Americana to it. Sollee and Moore prove that it is a certain brand of stateside musician that can only produce music of this distinctiveness.

Sweet Marie’ is a charming ballad but is commerciality does sound out of place on the album. Not to take anything away from the album in general, it doesn’t seem to fit in with the general ambience and schism but should still be appreciated nonetheless.

We are waved goodbye with ‘It won’t be long’ which is one of those classic ending album tracks and I believe it provides a fitting ending to ‘Dear Companion’. If Ben Sollee is your flavour of the month, then get booking tickets as he is set to grace our shores in December appearing on the same bill as the legendary Billy Bragg on some of them too, don’t let this slice of life pass you by.

Words : Barclay Quarton

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