Sun. Oct 25th, 2020

My first encounter with Ben Shaw was “Get the Hell Out of Here.” I was listening to playlists I, myself, was on. Being categorized along with Ben by whoever made this list, I felt a wave of pride come over me. Ben makes the kind of music I want to make. There’s a kind of music I hum to myself, as well as pay for, as well as play, and I also want to go to a bar and see for myself. Yes, there’s even a kind of music I’d like to pass on. Ben is the ambassador and Bonita is the flagship of such music.

I was a music fan before I was a musician. When I hear songs like, “The Train,” I remember why, a very simple train beat but complicated lyrics. The melody and soothing tones allow the mind to relax and focus on the rough voice and imagery. It meshes old and new tech with the percussive tones and traditional steel sounds and a large, almost Radiohead vibe at the end. It really works.

Psychedelic Americana isn’t new. Lyrics of sweat and earth attached to simple melodies, tube amps, and smoky voices have been echoing on indie labels since Echo Canyon. What makes Ben so worth your time is he is so damn good at it. No doubt he’s had everyone from the Byrds to Bob Seger stuck in his head in his lifetime and it comes out in songs like “Eau Claire Fou.” The “Hollywood Nights” beat is infectious and effective, and the lyrics almost take a Pearl Jam turn! Again, we see Ben’s ability to start off one way, and end up another. He’s simply masterful at transitions. Listen for yourself.

Lyrics of sweat and earth attached to simple melodies, tube amps, and smoky voices have been echoing on indie labels since Echo Canyon. What makes Ben so worth your time is he is so damn good at it.

I had three projects going on while writing this review. I had this album stuck in my head for a month. I was happy it was this one. There’s variety, guitars, emotion, gravel, whiskey, Americana, California, even Wisconsin. I was a trucker for 12 years and if I would have had this album on the road, it would have lasted me a good 10,000 miles, or so.

You can tell from his video from “Get the Hell Out of Here,” Ben Shaw isn’t trying to change things too much. Instead, he honors them. He pays homage to where he’s from and what he listens to. He gives the guitar a long hard look and the guitar looks back. There’s no lasers, no flash, just good music. -K

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