ALBUM REVIEW - BLUES AND ROOTS RADIO CANADA
Ben J Carter
Album: These Winters They Howl
Label: Self Released
Ben J. Carter comes from Melbourne, Australia, which explains why I haven’t come across him yet. With guitar skills like his I’m surprised he’s not already on my radar but he is a most welcome addition.
Carter is an accomplished guitarist and songwriter, who plays his own brand of acoustic slide, folk and country-blues with laid-back dexterity. His exploration of open tunings sets his guitar playing apart and his lap slide dobro lines are soul stirringly beautiful. He cites his influences as ranging from 1920s blues to original folk and he deftly manages to capture many aspects of this sonic landscape. His resonator guitar playing is reminiscent of Bukka White and Mississippi Fred McDowell’s fingerpicking country-blues sounds, while his compositions are far more contemporary and harmoniously bridge the gap between 1920s blues and modern acoustic songwriters.
The sound of ‘These Winters They Howl’ is distinctly rootsy yet radio friendly, offering sliding blues and memorable hooks in abundance. The album features some brilliant guest players on cello, violin and drums that help flesh out the record and create a wonderful, at times cinematic, backdrop for Carter’s catchy compositions.
‘Ain’t no reason’ is a beautiful opening track, lush with overlapping strings, vocal harmonies and bearing a toe-tapping, feel-good vibe. The violin on ‘Cut The Ties’ lends a wonderful laidback Americana, alt. country tone which contrasts nicely with the following delta blues infused track “No Friend Of Mine’, proving Carter is no one-trick-pony. The only non-original tune comes halfway through the album and Carter confidently stamps his own sound on the blues classic ‘Hard Time Killing Floor Blues’ with a haunting and moving rendition.
From 1920s blues to contemporary folk, Ben J Carter plucks and slides his way through a century of roots styles. His superb original material is bound to delight the blues and guitar purists and captivate modern singer-songwriter fans alike. I hope Ben makes the trek to the Northern hemisphere sometime soon so we get chance to hear him in a live setting. These winters may well howl, but with Ben J Carter on the stereo, they positively sing too.
Benjamin William Pike
ALBUM REVIEW - blues magazine Netherlands - (English translation)
Ben J. Carter – These Winters They Howl
Format: CD / Label: Independent
Release date: 25 August 2017
With this album singer-songwriter Ben J. Carter, from Melbourne, Australia, delivers a very impressive debut. In his own country he is already known for his slide guitar playing and this is for a reason.
On his album Ben combines folk with blues. On most songs he is backed up by strings, with Anita Qualye on cello, Jason Bunn on violin and Hannah Francis on fiddle, creating a delicious dreamy atmosphere.
Straight away you pick up on this in Ain’t No Reason, which starts with a majestic string intro. The song is further decorated by Ben’s bluesy slide playing. Combined with his warm vocals this results in a magnificent song. The strings are again present in the folky shuffle Cut The Ties. A wonderful song with delightful dreamy fiddle playing. An acoustic bluesy slide introduces No Friend Of Mine, a fierce stomping country blues song.
The blues is very clearly present in the Skip James’ cover Hard Time Killing Floor Blues. Ben transforms this song into a melancholic blues song, again showing his excellent slide work. His slide playing really cuts through in the bluesy Empty Streets. Red Flag is an intimate folk ballad with moody cello and beautiful vocals. You can hear Ben playing solo in the instrumental Lyell Canyon, in which he clearly shows he masters finger picking as well. In the folkballad Bury Me By The Oak Tree the cello steals the show.
This very impressive album concludes with Sweet Way, a dreamy folky blues song that at times reminds one of Ry Cooder’s film music.
The combination of folk songs (and blues) with the added melancholic string ensemble delivers a remarkable, exceptionally beautiful debut album.
By Peter Marinus