Saturday, 18 April 2015

Benjamin Folke Thomas - Hare and Hounds, Kings Heath, BirminghamThursday 16th April 2015

PAs a regular listener and advocate of Michael Park’s The International Americana Music Show, there is no finer way to explore continental music that is infused with definable twang and heavily influenced by the reams of iconic roots music to emanate from the States. Sweden’s Ben Folke Thomas has been one such artist to be featured and his style of alt-country rock compactly fits within the ideals of the Americana genre. In support of his second record due out in May, Ben and his fellow Scandinavian band members are embarking on a wealth of UK dates and on the evidence of this Birmingham show, folks are going to be well enamoured with his bold vocal delivery, driving rhythms and engaging songs.

Ben is far from new to the UK scene, adopting almost Anglo status during his lengthy periods of residence, but the challenge has to be to expand out of the London scene and bang on the doors of provincial music nuts. This evening’s show at the Hare and Hounds did just that and those present were served a luscious portion of Ben’s ability to front a tight knit sound with panache, class and a touch of dry humour.

Apart from the sheer consistency of quality within the songs spanning his two albums, Ben’s band introductions made for one of those golden gig moments to lighten the intensity. The visual nature of the humour means you will have to attend one of Ben’s shows to fully appreciate it, so in a more conventional way we shall just commend the playing skills of Henning Sernhede (many guitars), Johannes Mattsson (bass) and Jonas Abrahamsson (drums).

Most of the songs from the new album ROGUE STATE OF MIND were featured in the set and made that instant impact when you feel a record is going to be a firm favourite. ‘Futile Blues’, ‘Broke Down Train’ and ‘Dream About You’ led the tracks from this new record with the most prominent first impression. By paying respect to his other album TOO CLOSE TO HEAR, Ben lifted two equally impressive numbers in ‘Love Somebody’ and the seemingly popular ‘Blues for You’.

While the band’s presence added real value, there was the usual solo slot which Ben used effectively to deliver ‘Married’ and he needed very little effort in extracting audience participation for the chorus of ‘Sex Addict’. The acoustic solo stance was extended to the final song of the evening when Ben kicked off a tribute to one of his song writing heroes, Warren Zevon, with an on stage version of ‘Don’t Let Us Get Sick’ before finishing it unplugged, sitting in the audience and conducting a departing sing along. Prior to this, the band had signed off for the evening with another Zevon song, this time a rocking version of ‘Play it All Night Long’.

The opening slot for this gig was afforded to ahab band member Dave Burn who used the thirty minute set to share songs, both old and new, accompanied by a multiple exchange of guitars. From his new solo EP, ‘Vans’ and ‘The Killer’ were enthusiastically received and enjoyed, while an older song from Ahab, ‘My Father’s Eyes’, was without doubt the most fetching number played.

2015 is shaping up positively for Benjamin Folke Thomas, with a national radio session lined up, numerous headline dates mingled alongside support slots for Beans on Toast and a handful of festival appearances, most relevant in these quarters a debut at Maverick in July. This first opportunity to catch Ben live and devote further time to his recorded material has been a worthy exercise. Quite rightfully, the move from the fringes into the spotlight is in motion. 

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