“Outsider Country” innovator Ben Bostick will release a self-titled album next month that is both compelling and unorthodox.
Ben Bostick is an audacious, trailblazing messenger with enough promise to bode a paradigm shift in modern music. The South Carolina-raised troubadour has a residency at the Escondite in Los Angeles and a new self-titled album to be released next month. Bostick isn’t pissed off enough to be considered outlaw country, not quite twangy enough for honky-tonk, not hipster enough for Americana and not cynical enough to fit into the folk genre. So where do we put him? He labels his sound “Outsider Country,” but this is the perfect example of why all these labels are becoming as antiquated as landlines.
The album opens with the lion-hearted “Independence Day Eve”, an apocalyptic anthem similar to something the late lyricist, Michael Been, might have written. Peppered with a smart guitar solo, the song equates to a dandy amalgamation of musical influences that make up Bostick’s heroic sound. Songs like these, the ones that make you think, are few now days, so to choose it as an album opener says something about the hopeless nostalgia and innocence of the artist. He follows it with “Coast of Mexico”, a work that easily stands up to James Taylor’s “Mexico”. It’s smooth, catchy and comes from a place of personal experience, making it hard not to book an immediate flight south of the border. Then, Bostick swings back to American southern gospel with “After the Rain”, a cleansing, repentance song with a strong up beat, tambourine and piano, showing a spiritual side of Bostick that seems to come from strong geographical inheritance. Just these three songs show that his sound is as slippery as a shuffleboard table, allowing him to slide easily into any root music setting.
The work that leaves you with a harrowing lump in your throat is Bostick’s ethereal “Paper Football”. A personal tribute for his first love, who suffered the direful fate of suicide, the piece helps puts into words what survivors who have been close to such tragedies experience. Those left behind can go through years of questioning, dubiety and misunderstanding. Producer, John Would, plays a Ragtime-era Hawaiin slide guitar that acts as a hovering, watchful ghost of the girl, meeting the emotionally fraught Bostick mid-song for one last dance, as the two finish their story together. “Paper Football” offers listeners acquiecscence, while helping to channel focus on the sweeter memories of the deceased, and is one of the most beautiful cultural commentaries written in the past few years.
Bostick captures a slow motion, moment-in-time picture with “Sweet Thursday”, a story of ephemeral love between two misfits. The harmonica is gentle and seductive while Bostick’s delivery has the subtle timelessness of a Nanci Griffith tune. However, the most traditional country song on the album is “Should Have Been Her Man”, a mellifluous waltz reminiscent of early Lyle Lovett. Bostick uses a simple song to express resolve about a complicated woman in “Erin is Blue”, and it seems to be someone he has observed with careful interest. The arrangement is intriguing and has a careful build up to a crashing end, leaving it open to interpretation.
There are no covers on Bostick’s album and all ten songs hold their own, even “The Juggler”, an almost kitchy tune about a guy literally juggling too many lovers. The placement of it on the album is odd, but even that choice can be seen as clever commentary on current society. Bostick’s album gets better with each listen and he has clearly found his muscle in music, helping to tear down genre fences that keep artists branded, while still contributing to the art of genuine story-telling.
Ben Bostick will be released July 7. To learn more, visit www.benbostick.com.
by Bylle Breaux
Published in National Rock Review.