One of the pleasures when exploring Americana music is the background, circumstances, belief and passion that surrounds many of the recordings. While essentially the 42 minutes playing time of ATLANTIC by Ben Glover is what fundamentally matters, this record is so much more enjoyable when savoured by understanding its spirit, drivers and desire to drill to the very core of its influences. First and foremost Ben is a proud Northern Irishman but his passion to explore the connectivity with the musical soul of his homeland and that of the US southern states has led to a collection of songs strong in sense of direction and fertile in the sound of its objectives.
Ben has had some success in connecting with a wider UK audience via his association with Mary Gauthier and Gretchen Peters and unsurprisingly both have lent a hand in the compilation of this sincere and scintillating album. Mary and Ben co-wrote the record’s standout song ‘Oh Soul’ and this redemptive masterpiece intrinsically linking itself with the life and death of Robert Johnson shivers your senses for its near 5 minute duration. Ben’s recorded version joins Mary’s one from her excellent new album TROUBLE AND LOVE and it’s made perfect for a duet when the pair tour together this autumn. On the subject of duets, Gretchen went one step further with her co-write ‘Blackbird’ and the album is enriched by Ben and herself sharing vocals on this stunning and quintessential murder ballad.
The press blurb for ATLANTIC was far from laden with superlatives, just explaining the context of the release and for once acted as the perfect accompaniment for listening to the album. For the record, Ben has spent a number of years living in Nashville and in pursuit of his deeper understanding of roots music has travelled deep into the fields of inspiration. However the calling was to return home, assemble a bunch of likeminded musicians, strip away the layers of production and seek the reasons why the Atlantic divide might be lengthy in miles but much, much shorter in terms of musical heritage.
Along with Mary and Gretchen, Ben has shared the writing duties with acclaimed American troubadour Rod Picott on album opener ‘This World is a Dangerous Place’ where deep ingrained vocals reflect the perils of life. Ben’s other writing collaborator is producer Neilson Hubbard who has been present on his three previous albums. The careful assortment of instrumentation represents the finest sounds you would expect on a roots driven Americana recording with perhaps only fiddle missing but the dual steel input of pedal and lap fuse perfectly between the ideal mix of electric and acoustic guitar.
It would be remiss to not include a sad country song in this journey of discovery and ‘True Love’s Breaking My Heart’ fits the bill neatly and rather effectively with a waltz-like back beat. The big river was never going to be left out and Gretchen Peters once again lends her vocals this time to the graceful ballad ‘The Mississippi Turns Blue’. This track would not be out of place on Rosanne Cash’s epic album THE RIVER AND THE THREAD and that is no faint compliment. A gospel feel adorns the track ‘Take and Pay’, while homeland sentiments fuel the jaunty number ‘Sing a Song Boys’ and go a long way to linking the two lands inspiring the project.
Either side of this spark of gaiety, Ben once again gets in deep sombre exploratory mood with the solemn ‘How Much Longer Can We Bend’ and the philosophical album closer ‘New Year’s Day’. The two remaining tracks are more upbeat with the soulful rocker ‘Too Long Gone’ sang with aggression while the excellently written reflective song ‘Prisoner’ begs for forgiveness and namechecks the legendary Highway 61.
In writing, recording and releasing ATLANTIC, Ben Glover has made great inroads in realising his objective of delving into the spirit of the two lands close to his heart. Ultimately the pleasure is in the listening and all the better if you buy into the ideals.