Benjamin Folke Thomas
Album: Too Close To Here
Label: Bucketful Of Brains
What a wonderful full debut album. It’s moving and captivating and embraces you with beautiful melodies, thoughtful instrumentation and capturing lyrics. Benjamin Folke Thomas couldn’t have done any better. The production has been just right – nothing has been overdone in the studio. The music is sounding gorgeously natural and spontaneous. Now wonder: It is a a live recording – there are so subtle speed and volume changes that just don‘t happen with the usual process of dubbing. The album has been recorded in 6 days sessions with the production team of three musicians: Henning Sernhede, Johannes Mattsson and Benjamin Folke Thomas himself. They are called The Swedish Folk Maffia and they did an excellent job. Every instrument gets its own right to be heard clearly – there are some wonderfully distinctive basslines (Johannes Mattsson) like in „Love Somebody“ and „Let her Down“, crystal clear high pitched piano notes as in „Love Somebody“ (Jonas Abrahamsson) and almost tenderly played drumming (Abrahamsson) like in „Blues for You“. And then there is of course the refined finger picking style that Thomas is known for – often in lively and touching dialogue with a second guitar like in „Extend no Greeting“ (BJ Cole on Dobro) or in „Fire“ – here the electric guitar (Henning Sernhede) almost seems to comment on the content of the song. That’s deeply felt musicality.
The most wonderful thing is, every song is so special and tells its very own story. The opener „Somebody“ immediately gets you. You feel there is really something to discover on this album – which turns out to be the case indeed. The song makes you think of some Dire Straits guitar riffs, here beautifully and sensitively played by Henning Sernhede. At the same time you feel , here is somebody very new with his very own style who just wants to sound like himself. Benjamin Folke Thomas surely does. The London based Swede doesn’t seem to try and sing nicely and that has a tremendous effect. This guy just sings – seemingly without any care of what he might sound like. That gives a raw and unpolished tone to his vocals which is absolutely convincing. You just want to listen to him and listen to what he has to say. And it’s well worth listenening carefully. His lyrics are stunning: „Cupid’s bow is broken, someone mended it for him, you know his arrows are blunt, they don’t hurt they only sting. This is a low point in Cupid’s career, every heart is broken, only that much is clear“ (One more Ride). That’s pure poetry.
Ballads, blues rhythms, rocky tunes as well as elements of folk and country can be found on this diverse album. All of the songs have one thing in common: They are touching. This is partly because melody and lyrics correspond amazingly well. In „Bye Bye Baby“ questions are raised about what the mistakes somebody made. It’s sung passionately and the melody reflects the questions about how everything could go so wrong. In „Let her Down“ the pains of a woman are told with sympathy but without pity. The simple melody sung along in unison (Hanna Sernhede ) wraps you in and makes you think about that lady. The inventive changing of chords gives the song its beauty, contrasting its rather dark content. That’s ingenious songwriting.
Simplicity is another of this album‘s secrets – simplicity paired with poignant statements, musical as well as lyrical ones: „Extend no Greetings“ is a straightforward settlement with somebody. In its unadorned arrangement and sparse instrumentation it reflects the sad but clear state of mind of the person speaking. „And now your friend for the future is an ally of the past“. This is to the point and doesn’t need much embroidery, neither lyrically nor musically. And then there is the shortest song of the record „Fire“, not even three minutes long – one short rocky statement. There is angriness in the scratchy vocals, in the creaking guitar and of course in the lyrics. But this angriness is told from a distance and it‘s musically transformed in a way that makes listening an absolute pleasure. It’s just too short.