Benjamin Folke Thomas
Album: Rogue State Of Mind
Label: Bucketfull Of Brains
A firework of musical ideas, a musical paradise of inventiveness and diversity in terms of arrangements and instrumentations: This is what I’d call Benjamin Folke Thomas’s second studio album, Rogue State of Mind. I called his song writing ingenious before when reviewing his debut album and again, each and every song is a masterpiece. But the true wonder of his art is more than that. It’s grounded on his devotion to give every song his full attention and invent a completely new idea of how it should sound and what it should express. Usually I quickly find one or two favourites on an album…impossible here. Every song has easily got the quality to be chosen as a single.
What they have in common is their search for meaning in this world. While the fantastic opener Break the Border starts all enthusiastic saying “I wanna do for you what you did for me” the final song Little too Late states “Let me tell you how the heart burns”. In between there is a bit of hope (Pauper to a King) and a lot of disappointment: “This body is a prison, my soul has escaped me…I’m gonna…dismiss all there was in this life so I can enter the next one clean” (Woman I love). Really good things just seem to happen in dreams: “The best thing I ever had was that dream of you that night” (Dream about you Baby) – even though lyrically as well as musically there is quite a bit of irony in this song. Words like these make you doubt their creator really is only in the middle of his twenties. Musically, Eric Clapton comes to mind (especially in the absolutely stunning Pauper to a King), also Bob Dylan, sometimes Bruce Springsteen. Musically as well as lyrically Benjamin Folke Thomas seems a lifetime ahead of himself.
The album is more direct, more honest, less metaphorical and even more passionate than the predecessor, the fabulous “Too close to Here”. It’s less a solo album and more a band album and yes, Benjamin Folke Thomas’ acclaimed band definitely has its share in the extraordinary quality of this album (Johannes Mattsson, bass; Jonas Abrahamsson, drums). Yet it’s first and foremost Henning Sernhede (electric guitar, mandolin, lap steel guitar) who leaves his footprint on this album. A sought-after guitarist in his home country Sweden he adds his special note to almost every song. He adjusts completely to the respective soul of the song and plays his solos either dirty and rough like in Dream about you Baby, playful like in Pauper to a King or emotional like in Little too Late. Benjamin Folke Thomas’ excellent acoustic guitar skills don’t get displayed as much on this album as on the former one but it’s his diverse vocal abilities that enfold. In songs like Bulletproof, Broke down Train and Married he sings with a warm and soft baritone voice and sometimes uses his head voice whereas he sounds wild and powerful in other songs, sometimes angry (like in Futile Blues), sometimes desperate (like in Little too Late) or euphoric (like in Breaking Borders) – always interesting and fascinating.
The sound of this album is excellent. A great variety of additional instruments like organ, piano or saxophone as well as a great choice of backing vocals sung by different singers (i.e. Hanna Sernhede, Linnea Eketrä and Stina Grape) make the album as colourful and entertaining as it is. The richness of sound doesn’t affect its transparency so one can hear every line of every instrument clearly which is good as we are offered many little musical surprises that would get lost otherwise. The album has been recorded in the band’s own studio in Almedal, produced by the Swedish Folk Maffia and mixed and mastered by the band’s own Johannes Mattsson and Henning Sernhede.