Sound — 7
Brendan Benson has made a name for himself as a member of The Raconteurs', but long before he started trading off with Jack White on the microphone Benson was an established solo artist. Brendan Benson released his debut "One Mississippi" back in 1996, and received strong recognition within the press thanks to the backing of a major record label, Virgin Records. But despite favorable reviews Benson's debut album wasn't as large of a commercial success as anticipated, and he was subsequently dropped. His second solo effort "Lapalco" fared much better in the charts, and the song "Good to Me" was later covered by The White Stripes. Brendan released one additional album before joining The Raconteurs, and most recently has refocused his attention on a solo career. Now Brendan Benson is making a memorable impression with his new album "You Were Right," an effort soaked in the familiar 1970's classic rock influence which has made a memorable impression in Benson's playing style. But what we have on "You Were Right" is a lot more than just a simple rehashing of previously released Brendan Benson material; instead we have an album which shows the rock musician delving into blues and country territory, paths only occasionally crossed on Benson's earlier albums. "I Don't Wanna See You Anymore" embodies the spirit of the Eagles: a slow country rock ballad, with cascades of organ playing, soaring brass melodies and intricate guitar licks set to a foot tapping pace. There's some overtones of Memphis blues mixed in there as well, which particularly come out through Benson's soulful guitar work. "As of Tonight" makes some proud use of the acoustic guitar, while the chorus brings in some memorable pop hooks and catchy group vocal harmonies. "New Words of Wisdom" boasts some slight yet noticeable similarities to The Doors, while the first thirty seconds of "Swallow You Whole" could almost be mistaken for an ELO studio outtake. "You Were Right" does include the occasional distortion-fueled hard rock anthem which runs in the same vein as Brendan Benson's work in The Raconteurs. "I'll Never Tell" begins with a few quiet bass beats and a reggae-style synthesizer section, which upon the first listen personally through me for a loop. The contrast between this track and rest of "You Were Right" was almost a little too vast, but just as I began to reach for the skip button the track shifted into an uptempo rocker with some elements of Queen thrown in for good measure, and has since become one of my personal favorite tracks off of the album.
Lyrics — 8
Brendan Benson is certainly the one factor which consistently ties this album together. Especially when you have an album which incorporates the elements of multiple different musical styles, you need at least one factor to apply a sense of normality and bring a familiarness to each new leap across subgenres. The fact that Brendan's vocals are bright and melodic works for the benefit of each song, whether that's a slow country-flavored acoustic ballad or an adrenaline-powered hard rock. As a sample of Brendan's lyrics from the album, here are some from "I'll Never Tell": "And people say how can you be so cruel/ well it's easy when you're me/ and you're always gonna be the exception the rule/ they say it's only my foolish pride/ it's getting in the way/ it's the reason why I say what I feel inside."
Overall Impression — 8
This album came across a true surprise for me. While I came into this album already expecting to hear something enjoyable, there was no way I could possibly anticipate the complex musical diversity which is so proudly showcased throughout "You Were Right." The album transitions from smokey swamp blues and emotional country ballads to crunching hard rock, and does so effortlessly. The '70s classic rock influence is apparent no matter which genre Brendan Benson is trying his hand at, and the result is a memorable listening experience which only gets better with each replay. "You Were Right" comes warmly recommended to established fans of Benson's solo efforts and his work in The Raconteurs, and for those who aren't already familiar with Brendan Benson this album would serve as a strong and proper introduction.