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

Flea BITE: Bite Me (Border)

Flea BITE: Bite Me (Border)

And now something for our younger listeners. Or at least their parents or caregivers. Robin Nathan (aka Flea BITE) out of Wellington has been making children's music which has adult appeal for... > Read more

THE BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2017: THE READERS' PICKS

THE BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2017: THE READERS' PICKS

As editor of the one-man band Elsewhere I had my say on the best albums I wrote about this past year  -- while freely conceding I did not, could not, hear everything.... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

UB40: Just another labour of love

UB40: Just another labour of love

It was a few years ago now, but UB40 were back for another New Zealand tour. Well pardon my lack of enthusiasm. It's not that, like most critics, I don't have much time for their MOR reggae. I... > Read more

EPs by Yasmin Brown

EPs by Yasmin Brown

With so many CDs commanding and demanding attention Elsewhere will run this occasional column by the informed and opinionated Yasmin Brown. She will scoop up some of those many EP releases, in... > Read more