A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing Benjamin Russell. Since then, I have had the equal, if not greater pleasure of listening to his latest CD Rockhill. I wanted to share my impressions of this expertly crafted collection with you.
From the first opening notes of “Starved,” I was hooked on the Rockhill CD. Most collections I listen to have a consistent and central mood that runs throughout. Nothing wrong with that; for many of us, the listening experience is reminiscent of a great movie or novel that keeps us riveted through beginning, action-packed middle, and satisfying end. Rockhill does this and more—not only does it bring us on a welcome journey, it runs the gamut of emotions to keep us a bit off balance (in a good way), and waiting in anticipation for the next track to see where it will transport us.
“December”’s earnest and energetic hooks make it impossible to not either chair-dance, sing along, or both. This is the high-powered introduction that grabs listeners and draws them in to a plot filled with exciting twists and turns.
“Magic” feat. Sandra Chechik is a whimsical, upbeat song. I dare you to remain in a sullen mood while listening to this track. It picks away at any bad feelings you may have until they crumble, sulking away and leaving your inner self feeling refreshed and renewed.
“Ghost” starts out in a mysterious, darkly-tinged way, until Benjamin’s melodic voice comes in and puts all our fears at ease. It’s not meant to frighten; rather it’s a bedtime story that allows imagination to wander until it’s time to switch off the lights and welcome dreamland.
“Space” has an ominous, atmospheric tone; Benjamin’s voice expertly hits the lower scale, introducing us to his amazing range, in case we weren’t already aware of and amazed by it. Clearly, this incredible voice is going to be the most important element that Rockhill has to offer.
“Hunger” feat. Fred Lemlin has an appropriately angry sound. He’s pissed off, and not afraid to share that with us, giving his soul a public cleansing that we can all identify with.
“Quiet” is reminiscent of the finest that Waterboys had to offer. Russell’s voice evokes the very best that Mike Scott gives as front man for the Waterboys, as well as Matt Johnson from The The. It has the right edge to keep us engaged and interested, yet soothes us through all of the highs and lows.
“Water” feat. JF Dumais spins a tale that draws us out of the shadows and “gives meaning to our lives.” If you have ever thought of giving up, this is the song that cheers you on to keep going.
“Breakaway” is a mellow trip down a winding road that brings the listener straightaway into the comforting, waiting arms of “Connection” feat. Peter Patrick. These two tracks hold a magic one-two punch that keeps the CD, and the listener, advancing through a melodic wonderland.
“Time” takes us on a journey through a different dimension underscored and highlighted with swelling electronica and a driving rhythm section. It feels like we are traveling, and the music is our vehicle for getting there.
“Slipping” is a beautiful ballad that pays homage to a love that’s slipping away. It works through the how’s and why’s of what is happening, and tries to recapture what once was.
“Believe” assures us there is more to life, and that we all need to have something to believe in, namely a true love that sustains us through all trials and tribulations. It’s a beautiful song with an equally beautiful, uplifting theme. The horns are a lovely and fitting accoutrement to the bounty this song serves.
“Garden” has a hint of C&W, that segues into Bowie-esque vocals, spinning a tale of where love comes from. The picture this song paints is a Monet splash of light and color, sure to cheer even the most down-hearted soul.
“Belong” urges listeners through the challenging pathways of life, letting us in on the secret that “hopeless situations aren’t so hopeless.” If we create a united front, together we can overcome anything life throws our way. What a fabulous messsage to hear, especially given the state of the world today.
“Deep Magic” breaks up the serious themes of the preceding songs with a perfectly executed falsetto against a hard-core background. It’s a song of contradictions, both lyrically and musically, that work incredibly well, evoking the CD’s earlier songs and tempos.
Rockhill closes with“Artist.” If the opening lines of this track don’t make you smile, there’s no hope for you. It starts out bordering on being the slickest pick-up line known to man, but Benjamin pulls it off as something pure and beautiful. It’s fitting that this eclectic, expertly written and executed CD collection should close on such a high note.
Do yourself a huge favor, and visit Benjamin Russell’s site: http://www.benjamin-russell.com/index.html
While there, use any of four available links to order Rockhill. If you are anything like me, you tend to select and cue up music that fits your current mood. Even so, sometimes it’s just downright magical to play a CD like Rockhill that will tickle the full spectrum of your emotions, leaving you feeling enriched and uplifted.