There is a word that will no doubt litter this review, and that word is ‘dark’. From the black and white album cover, to the song titles and the overall mood of British bluesman Ben Hemming’s latest release the word dark appears.
Actually, it’s a bit of a strange album, often feeling in conflict with itself because, although described as a mix of blues and Americana, it sits happily in the genre of rock. Hemmings has a voice that is more suited to those American bands of the mid 1990’s that appeared through the arrival of grunge, bands like Soundgarden and Pearl Jam who’s lead singers had that gravelly, gutsy voice that elongated the final syllable of their lyrics that spoke to the down-trodden everyman and conjured images of darkened hallways and alleys.
If you’re expecting three-chord blues with a stripped-back production, forget it, this is the type of blues that has kindly been asked to leave and to stand outside in the rain, but that isn’t a bad thing, this shows an artist developing his style, evolving into other areas and pushing the ‘rules’ of a genre to see where it takes us and what treasures can be found. No good artist stands still, and the opening two tracks of the album almost feels like a continuation from the previous album, a way of reassuring the listener that you’re on familiar ground but we’re saying goodbye to that and hello to something new.
I would have liked a little more variation in strumming pattern on tracks one and two (and again on tracks five and six) it sounds too similar to the previous song, so changing the pattern or splitting these tracks up would have fixed that but, that aside, there are some accomplished songs and should possibly open up his audience base to include those who like their rock dark but also keeping his existing fans happy.