Anticipating the delivery of Ben Ottewells new record was as much because I had no idea what his music sounded like, and equally because I was hoping to be swept off my feet. Being unfamiliar with the music of the band he is a member of, Britain's 'GOMEZ", my intention is there would be no comparisons with Gomez's music. As soon as I heard the first song, 'Rattlebag', I knew this was just the surprise I was hoping for.
The singer/songwriter genre has always been my first music choice.
"your prayers won't raise me from this well. I don't hear the mission bell. I
sunk beneath the water, when they raised me up, I fell. When they raised me up,
I fell. Somewhere salvation comes, in strange disguise. Somewhere, somewhere
Redemption comes. When they raised me up, I fell. When they raised me up, I
Instantly the song grabbed me, perfect harmonies, a tender to desperate rhythm section and wailing guitar come in at the precise moment. My plan was to listen to the entire album at once. 'Rattlebag' is Ben Ottewells second solo album; he released 'Shapes and Shadows' in 2011. Both records find Ottewell collaborating with his childhood friend Sam Genders, previously of the bands Tuning and The Accidental. The eleven songs the pair have written here beautifully give the listener poetic tales of salvation and redemption, and of sanctuary, while Ottewells infectious melodies will beg you to sing along.
Ottewell's voice sets him apart from the entire pack. Grainy and rough while soulful and potent. I listened daily for two weeks; put the album down for one week and on the next I resumed playing it. The feeling was similar to seeing an old friend again. One you missed more than you knew. Recognizing each chord played and each phrase sung. The kind of friendship, that no matter the lapse in time that has passed, where reuniting resumes comfortably and with excitement.
On 'Red Dress', Ottewell sings "When I came down, down from the mountain. At first I was frightened, but now, I'm dead calm. When I walked into the station, I felt my elation, as I fell into your arms". Each song on Rattlebag is filled with clever phrases that hit their mark, while Ottewell sings each word with conviction.
A favorite of mine 'Paper and Rosaries', rocks a little harder than most with creepy Keys, harmonica and organ. All songs were recorded with a full band, the exception being, 'No Place', an almost eerie song with an opening line of 'Nothing lasts forever'. With haunting, while hushed, organ and drones, 'No Place' quickly runs at less than three minutes and is perfectly placed. Another favorite, 'Edge', rocks with some punchy Pete Thomas (The Attractions) style organ, a driving beat, an ever present guitar wail in the back and Ottewell's strong vocals. Superb. 'So Slow' opens with a subtle organ and some beautiful acoustic guitar from Ottewell, as is present throughout the album. 'Papa Cuckoo' has a New Orleans, Radiators vibe to it, possibly the most danceable track here. The lyrics remain strong, "afternoon shadows, across the room, faded photos, they sing to you, Count your numbers, say your prayers. Light a candle, he's still there." And "He comes all dressed in black, he comes all dressed in white. Dressed all in skulls and bones. And he does that crazy dance, he's 'another worldly' sight. And he'll make you sway and dance, when you meet him some dark night".
'Shoreline' has some nice steel guitar as Ottewell sings "There's a time and place for us, I will take you there", offering hope and promise. 'Stone' , written by Ottewell , Genders and Francis Humberston, has a chorus that sounds like Michael Stipe and REM. As Ben Ottewell sings "Bring them down, release me. Tear them down, release me. Pull them down, release me". Undeniable and compelling. 'Distant Shores' perfectly closes out the album, "Guiding each other through the storm".
Something I would like to mention. I will be following the career of Ben Ottewell from now on. Most likely I will check out Gomez, but may not be as enthused about their music. Incidentally, Ottewell just appeared on the east coast this month within a few hours driving time. I will keep my eyes and ears open, I will not miss him on his next visit. 'Rattlebag' is to be released on The End Records October 27th.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE New York, NY (October 27, 2014) - Ben Ottewell, acclaimed singer and guitarist of British band Gomez, is proud to release his second solo album Rattlebag todayin the US via The End Records / ADA. As a singer and lead guitarist in rock band Gomez, Ben Ottewell is well known for his unmistakable voice and talent for blistering and inspired guitar solos. Rolling Stone declared, "Gomez's not-so-secret weapon is Ben Ottewell.” And as GQ Magazine once wrote and anyone listening can attest," his voice is not of this world.” Rattlebag is now available on iTunes, CLICK HERE to download.
About Our Author: Lee Hebert is a music lover and fan first, sharing his passion and knowledge of music through his experience as a writer for FACE Magazine. Lee lives in Maine, and is married with five children, who live throughout the U.S. and Italy. The basics of life for Mr. Hebert? Family, Live Music - and Playing Gretsch Drums!