Whiskey Priest –  Ben Noble (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Ben_Noble__Cover_phixrCutting Teeth hinted at Ben Noble’s ability to craft emotive and gently sweeping folkscapes but it didn’t prepare the listener for the fact that he is able to fill a whole album with the sort of songs which could have just as easily taken its place as the teaser, the calling card and the lead single.  By this point many fellow journalists have probably already mentioned Nick Drake or Bon Ivor, but for me the best comparison is actually the sparse and spacious, floating and flowing creations of Damien Rice. Here you find the same use of atmosphere and anticipation, the same  understanding that sometimes subtle shading is more powerful than vibrant brushstrokes.

Little One is a classic example of just such an approach, all strings and sentiment as much as lyric and song and around this central gem he scatters his exotic wares. Worldspin feels like a new take on Simon and Garfunkel and there are hints of David Gray around the place but for every reference I throw at you there is ten times the amount of originality going on here. The form may be familiar but Whiskey Priest is pure Ben Noble.

The lyrics have a compressed style and revel in getting straight to the point with minimal but perfect wordplay, almost like folkloric haikus or personal notes to the listener and it is this blend of intimacy and universality, poignancy and poeticism which is so effective. Most singer-song writers, folkies and acoustic poppers would have been happy enough to have written Cutting Teeth, the song which first brought this slice of Minneapolis gold, or more properly gold leaf, such is the delicacy of the album, but to then surround it with eleven more brilliant songs is really making it hard on the competition. Benchmarks have just been raised.

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