Benjamin Booker: Witness (Rough Trade)

 |   |  1 min read

Believe
Benjamin Booker: Witness (Rough Trade)

This may only be Booker's second album but he has already proven the capacity to surprise, born out o his punk background in Florida coupled with a love for r'n'b', gospel and classic soul.

Throw them into the blender – you can almost hear the blades grinding on the throaty opener Right On You which comes at you out of a thumping pulse and the assertive “I'll be damned if I don't get what I want” and skittering blues-rock guitar – and something unexpected is always just around the corner.

But the follow-up is an aching soul ballad over a simple chipping beat with strings, and after that the title track brings in Mavis Staples to remind us that when it comes to race relations in America isn't any better than it was when she was testifying back in the Sixties. Police with guns are stil killing unarmed black civilians.The question they ask is pretty simple, are you going to witness this?

Booker can turn his hand to grind funk on The Slow Drag Under (he's long been based in New Orleans, sometimes like kin to Alabama Shakes and at others seduces with a string section beamed in from the late Fifties while he channels the spirit of a troubled Otis Redding (the existential uncertainties of the glorious Believe).

Southern soul is never very far away either (Overtime) and although there's sadness and disappointment here (Carry) the explosive moments (hold tight for the punk pyrotechnics of Off the Ground) and thoughtfulness also convey the power of self-confidence.

Over the long haul some might find his burned-out voice difficult, but when he deploys it on the heart-tearing ballads it is a powerful instrument.

Expect the unexpected, and even then prepared to be taken aback.

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Music articles index

Band of Horses: Cease to Begin (SubPop) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

Band of Horses: Cease to Begin (SubPop) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

Increasingly I am liking contemporary rock albums that annoy me because I can't quickly figure them out -- and this is one of them. Not having heard their "critically acclaimed" debut... > Read more

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2009 The Puddle: The Shakespeare Monkey (Fishrider/Yellow Eye)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2009 The Puddle: The Shakespeare Monkey (Fishrider/Yellow Eye)

Dunedin's The Puddle should have been bigger (and perhaps better) than they were during New Zealand's vibrant indie-rock scene in the Eighties and early Nineties. But they were sometimes... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

The Chequers: Ask for Reggae (1973)

The Chequers: Ask for Reggae (1973)

The Chequers were a fairly minor league reggae outfit who quite quickly moved away from the template and into what some have called on-line "dodgy disco" (which is a little unfair, it was... > Read more

GUEST WRITER ANDREW DAWSON considers Michael Houstoun's interpretations of Beethoven's piano sonatas

GUEST WRITER ANDREW DAWSON considers Michael Houstoun's interpretations of Beethoven's piano sonatas

If Chuck Berry’s hit Roll Over Beethoven was meant to dethrone the composer from his place in Western culture, it didn’t work. In the intervening years, Beethoven’s music... > Read more