Delilah – Ben McNeil (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

There are certain names in music that initially conjure an indelible and instant sound. Hear the name Layla and that classic riff runs through your brain. Peggy Sue and you are transported to the formative years of rock’n’roll. Angie and you can almost hear Jagger’s heart breaking. And if the name Delilah triggers Sir Tom blasting out a scintillating slice of bombastic, 60’s chamber-pop, the song of the same name which is Ben McNeil’s latest single couldn’t be sonically further from that iconic song.

Sitting more in an understated, alt-country sort of place, and echoing the sort of vibes that would make it perfectly at home on Ryan Adam’s gorgeous debut album, Heartbreaker, this Delilah is a very different lady indeed.

Like all great country songs, it tells a story of the imperfect lives of imperfect people, it is the tale of one of us, the people living on your street, a story filled with people that you recognise…Delilah might even be you, that is the art of writing such narratives, an art that Ben McNeil is superb at.

And, as always, he makes a little go a long way. I central stomping beat anchors everything and around this flows sensetive, finger-picked acoustic and, distant washes of slide and pedal steel guitars. Banjos gently waltz past, harmony vocals underline and reenforce the storyline vocals and they all percolate and infuse, mix and match in the deliberate spaces left for them to mature.

It is the deft layering of textures, the delicate weaving of tones that create such a perfect platform, one through which light pours and the instruments themselves seem only to gently colour the space behind the words, rather than dominate it.

Music can be used in many ways to make itself felt, and if at one end of the spectrum you have tools such as volume and impact, weight and drive, Delilah is about everything which is opposed to such crass and unimaginative approaches. This is a song built from emotion and imagination, feeling and constructive space, it is about what happens between, behind and beyond the note as much as within them, the story might talk to the heart but the music communicates with the very soul of the listener.

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