Album Review | Proper | Review by Marc Higgins | Stars: 5/5
The Punchy slide guitar that opens “What You Love Will Break Your Heart”, sounding like it’s been lifted off a 80s Tom Petty album is an immediate indication of how high Ben has lifted the bar on this new album. “It felt time to go bigger sonically, as my last albums have been quite stripped back and raw”, says Glover. There is a swagger and a more layered feel to the opener and the album. As well as a conscious decision after 10 years of recording to move into a new phase, the sound of Shorebound was also a product of having two brilliant guitarists playing off each other in the studio. Ben Glover’s voice is still a charged emotional force, “A Wound That Seeks the Arrow, a duet with Angel Snow is a tour de force. A delicately balanced arrangement of stroked guitars and Cello gives the singers room to build up an emotional tension. “Northern Stars” is another vocal triumph that Celtic lyricism is tempered with some of the soulful raggedness of Gavin Clark from Sunhouse and Clayhill and Neil Young’s up lifting falsetto. A shuffle beat feel good song that is going to sound great at summer open air festivals. “Catbird Seat” is a duet with Mary Gauthier, his breathy voice complimented by her distinctive tones. A collaborative writer throughout his career including writing Blackbirds the Americana Music Association UK’s 2017 International song of the year with Gretchen Peters, Ben says “I’ve been fortunate to work with amazing, fearless artists who have allowed me to deepen and widen my creative process.” Shorebound features twelve songs, ten of which were co-written with and feature the voices of people Ben feels are his “closest musical cohorts”. The brooding mystical voodoo of “Dancing with the Beast” summons some of the dark mojo of Nick Cave or Grant Lee Phillips. The insistent guitar and piano and Gretchen and Ben superb performance as they wind together and push each other on, delivers one of the strongest tracks on a consistently strong album. “Kindness” showcases Ben Glover’s ability to write and deliver folk anthems in this perfect solo track. Of his first performance of the song Ben says, “it was very evident to me, at that moment, that it’s essential we try and offer some light through our music. Art connects directly with the soul and the soul always responds to the light”. “Ride the River” is another example of how Ben’s superb voice is lifted further still when harmonising with another strong singer, on this track Kim Richey. With a gritty organ and a soaring electric guitar “Ride the River” balances moments of spiritual quiet and uplifting soulful bliss. “Song for the Fighting” is performed with Nielsen Hubbard, who along with Glover and Joshua Britt make up the song writing trip central to the excellent Orphan Brigade. Another huge anthem, the two singers work well together and build a taut soulful atmosphere on a huge classic rock track. U2 would kill to crackle and burn like “Song for the Fighting” does when it hits its stride. “Wildfire” is another potent rocker, a piano ballad featuring Ricky Ross from Deacon Blue again there is a beautiful balance between calm and rock blast. “My Shipwrecked Friend” is a song writing and vocal collaboration with Belfast singer songwriter Anthony Toner. A great song crammed with maritime imagery and metaphors and two voices that blend well together. Lyrically “Keeper of My Heart” has a pinch of Seasick Steve’s “I Started off with Nothing” in its DNA. Robert Vincent and Ben Glover deliver a fine set of life metaphors with that lazy swaggering tempo of Ray Lamontagne and some fine country playing. The song rolls along and delivers line after line of timeless folk blues writing and atmospheric playing. If you have never heard of Ben Glover, then this album will delight and amaze and have you hunting down his catalogue in wonder. If you have heard and loved Ben’s earlier recordings then this album, with its atmospheres and sense of growth will delight and amaze.