Sound: Folk rock marinated with a dash of country western, Midwestern blues, and heartland rockabilly are the essential elements employed by the New Ben Franklins on their latest recording "[peter gabriel]" from Dingo's Kidney music label. That's right, the title of the album uses Genesis' former lead singer's namesake for the simple reason that the folk rock quartet could all agree on it for their album title. Lead vocalist/guitarist David DeVoe takes claim of coming up with the album title as well as writing the lyrics for the band's songs. A poetic bard by nature, DeVoe's vocals show reflections of his musical influences with a pinch of Marty "Mr. Teardrop" Robbins augmented by drippings of Johnny "Man In Black" Cash and a shot of Luka Bloom's soulful voicing to linger on memories that refuse to go away.
The New Ben Franklins' music not only features DeVoe's vocal prowess but also the nimble drumming of Mark Kosta, the reflexive pulls of bass guitarist Benjamin Williams, and the symphonic flares and furling chord patterns of pedal steel guitarist Tom Oberheide who also plays banjo on the tracks. The album opens with the bluesy riffs of "Riverside" which complement DeVoe's tender vocal lifts and slides into a honky tonk rhythm in "Miserable" which matches the growls in DeVoe's vocal intonation. The pedal steel reverberates with a strong metallic echo slowly roasting "Love Like This" infusing a country western slant in the album. The music is modulated to a soft country folk swell piking songs like "My Soul" and "Summer Sun" and elevates to a rockabilly momentum in "Detroit Party Jesus" reminiscent of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and equipped with a swathe of mariachi horns in the bridge. The album closes with the profound "15" marking the 15th track on the recording. The number works as an epithet as DeVoe tells, "If you live to be 100, I want to live to be 100 minus one day so I never have to live without you." // 9
Lyrics: The lyrics have a romantic tint reminiscing about days gone by like in "Maine" as DeVoe confesses, "I didn't need anyone else / Because I had you / I thought we were in love / And my love had remained true / I had everything because you were here with me." Other times, DeVoe pulls himself out of the story and ruminates about his observations like in "Love Like This" with verses that describe, "When you see her and she's with all her friends / I see the way it makes you smile / I know that's what love looks like / When we're singing and we're laying out our hearts / And you trip up on her name / I know that's what love sounds like." The lyrics have a cathartic effect showing a sense of baring of the soul and vulnerabilities that shy away from being externalized. // 9
Overall Impression: The New Ben Franklins take nostalgic country and folk rock blends and give them a contemporary polish. Their album "[peter gabriel]" is cabled in vestiges of old time country western grooves and joined by the authenticity of heartland rock. The 15-track recording is drenched in Americana-based elements and resounds a modern cowboy ethos in every note. // 8