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Ben Glover - The Emigrant (Proper Records)
Ben Glover's vocal pleasingly combines the lilt of Mike Scott with the growl and fire of David Gray. With a childhood in a sleepy Northern Ireland village and eight years in Nashville Ben has a foot in both camps. He is a personification of the Transatlantic Sessions spirit and TV show. On songs like Ralph McTell's From Clare To Here and the traditional Parting Glass his voice blends beautifully between both sides of the Atlantic. A Song Of Home draws in so many elements, Bono's breathy sense of expectation, Van Morrison's ability to vamp on the sounds of words and a wonderful rasp in the vocal. A pared back arrangement of minimal piano, strummed guitar and tasteful strings sets up the whole thing perfectly. This is a track that wouldn't sound out of place on ASTRAL WEEKS and is an album highlight. Not that there is any filler. The Emigrant carries on the piano with a hymn like quality to Ben Glover's impassioned vocals and an anthemic message in the lyrics. He delivers an emotional vision of what it means to be dislocated, although so powerful is Glover's vocal he could probably grab your attention if he was singing a shopping list. He says "It can be a scary thing to be away from all you've known and all that feels familiar, and I hope this record gives something to people who are in that scenario". The song, started in Ireland and finished with Gretchen Peters in Nashville triggered a desire to make this album ,drawing together the older tradition with a present day spirit. Moonshiner is another traditional song. American Folk, Appalachian Music and Irish Music collide, as a wonderful violin part is laid against a snapping drum part that is straight out of Bruce Springsteen's I'm On Fire. With a stunning vocal that is both weary of the world and challenging it to do its worst, he broods like The Boss at his best. Just needs a few whoops or yelps at the end of the track.
While managing to sound nothing like her own songs, Heart In May Hand is a co-write with Mary Gauthier. Indeed the writing credits, Ralph McTell, Brendan Behan, Mary Gauthier, Gretchen Peters, Eric Bogle should be reason alone to pick this album up and give it a listen. Before you've heard Ben Glover's impressive singing and the great playing. As well as From Clare To Here Ben takes on The Auld Triangle and The Band Played Waltzing Matilda and makes them his own. Glover's vocal is at it's most raw and 'Shane' like on Behan's Auld Triangle and Bogle's anti war anthem, but in a way that is ultimately his own, he wrings out the feeling from every note, against some atmospherics and pipes Auld Triangle just flies. A very straight 'school assembly' piano on The Band Played Waltzing Matilda means that every inflection and wobble sounds impassioned. Any histrionics are deftly avoided with some considered and understated vocals delivered close to the mike in at times a dropped voice. The Green Glens of Antrim allows him to stretch out the vocals a little more and is a superb closer. Ben's singing and an emotional whistle solo pulling on the heart strings like a slow dance at the end of the night or a well chosen encore.