I have a confession to make; I like country music…
Before you stop reading, let me explain myself. I grew up in Iowa and had to put up with that crap for WAY too long. So, when I got a copy of Ben Kweller’s new EP, How Ya Lookin’ Southbound? Come In…, I was mortified to see iTunes list it as Country. I almost didn’t listen. But, because Ben is one of my favorite singer-songwriters, I figured either Apple fucked up or Ben crafted it that way for a reason.
Each track dissected when you read on…
With that in mind, I gave it a once-through and immediately the twang-y steel guitars, toe-tapping drums, and ragtime pianos stood out. Caught a little off-guard, I kept listening and by the time “Sawdust Man” came around, I was sold. The mixing of Ben’s talented songwriting with a band that belongs down in Dixie adds a whole new genre to my iTunes, alt-country. Imagine the last album, Ben Kweller, + Jack Daniels & steel guitar, and out comes HYLSCI, the best country album this country-hater has ever heard.
For those who don’t know, HYLSCI, is a prequel to a full-length country album that’s due out in February of next year. However great the 5 songs and 2 primitive recordings are, they’re definitely not enough to suppress my newly acquired appetite for Ben the Cowboy. Fortunately, I was able to see Ben live when he stopped at Chicago’s Bottom Lounge on October 14th with support from one of my favorite Aussies, Whitley. He plays a full version of “Gypsy Rosita” that the 25 second preview obviously doesn’t do justice. If you don’t like the new path Ben’s taken, go see him on his current tour and I guarantee it’ll change your mind. Here is a link to my show review with pictures and a full set list:
Ben Kweller @ Bottom Lounge – Chicago
- Fight – An upbeat anthem about fighting until your dying day. I can’t get enough of the lines, “I’m like my grandma; short but I stand tall; playin’ every single card that’s dealt to me; you know some days are aces and some days are faces well some days are 2’s and 3’s.”
- Things I Like To Do – A short and sweet love song that runs through a list of the little things in life that make you happy. Nothing too special but it’s a solid track none-the-less.
- Sawdust Baby – Recorded on a New York subway, this 39-second track captures the precise moment the chorus for “Sawdust Man” was born, thus Baby. The track is only 39 seconds long but it leaves you feeling like you’re part of the creative process after hearing the final version.
- Sawdust Man – From infant to man, this is my favorite track on the EP. After listening, just try to get the lines “I’m on top; of the greyhound station” out of your head. You can’t. Around 2:40, when his voice cracks, by far my favorite part of the song. Just FYI, I noticed it only in the live version, it’s there for a reason…to make me love it.
- The Biggest Flower – Not my favorite, but with time, I may get into it, it’s just not for me.
- F Train Blues/Gypsy Rosita – The first half is pretty interesting, I’d like to see where this recording goes on the new album. The last 25 seconds is where it takes off, Gypsy Rosita. I saw a live version of the song and I’ve gotta say, it might have been my favorite of the night.
- Somehow (Singlemalt Version) – A slower track heavy on the steel guitar as Ben croons, “Come on, come on, baby, I need you right now.” A nice addition to the album but I’d like to hear the colt 45 version.