Jason Bennett, |
(Eleven Mile, 2006)
Mindchange is the fourth acoustic folk album by singer-songwriter Jason Bennett. With the backing support of local Colorado Springs musicians Chuck Haas of Simpleman and Rich Currier of Bad Dogs, Bennett has brought us another eight original songs and two cover tracks, all worth a fair listen. To those not familiar with Bennett (including me), his music would be expected to be heard performed in many a coffeehouse or workingman's bar. His songs cover such topics as marriage and love, loss and wandering, fishing and drinking.
Though "Mindchange" is a catchy enough opening song -- after a couple of listens, I caught myself whistling its tune -- I did find the lyrics a bit Mickey Mouse. The repetition of certain phrases (specifically the lines "Am I a singer or am I am writer? / Should I sleep or pull an all-nighter? / Handwrite or typewriter?") were a little distracting. I often dislike when singer-songwriters compromise their lyrics in order to smooth out the meter and rhyme scheme.
The campiness of the lyrics continues in the next track. "Without the Moon" is a sweet, twangy song presumably written for his wife ("And now 20 years and two little kids / school pictures on the fridge / Yeah, honey I'd say we done pretty good"). The steel guitar work of Currier nicely complements the saccharine nature of the lyrics ("'Cause I'm still blowing kisses every time you leave / and we still give each other those shaky knees / yeah, we're still going strong like I knew we would").
I don't know if it's the guitar or the words, but, almost ironically, there is something haunting lurking in this song. He proceeds to say how he could go on living without x, y and z, but "Honey, I could never go on without you." If you listen too closely, you will either emit a sigh or will stick your tongue between your teeth and blow!
No doubt this is an entertaining album. With tracks like "Goodnight Suzanne," containing guitar work reminiscent of some of Jim White's songs, "Hoodsport, WA," a fun, bluesy tune, and the haunting nadir of "Tequila," Bennett keeps the disc rolling. At times, though, I wish he'd slow down a bit. In perhaps one of the potentially prettiest songs on this album, "How Will She Ever Find Me," Bennett has betrayed himself (or the song) by recording a rushed performance in a tempo too-quick. It could definitely be his most effective original song should he slow down the tempo and take his time to sing his lyrics.
Perhaps as an unfortunate testament to Bennett's songwriting ability, the two most enjoyable tracks are both covers. "My Heart's Not Broken Anymore," written by fellow singer-songwriter and friend Jason Riggs, moves along quite smoothly with well-spaced verses and Bennett's fine finger picking. Next to follow is the most interesting track on the album. As relevant now, it seems, as it was when written in the '60s, is the cover of Bob Dylan's "Let Me Die in My Footsteps." Bennett does a wonderful job in trying to live up to one of his greatest musical influences. His emulation of Dylan's singing (if we can call it singing) style is in no way forced, but is lovingly and successfully attempted. If there were one song I would hope to be pushed for radio time, it would be this one. I admire Bennett for the certain bravery in which he covered this Dylan tune out of the vast options available, all the more because "Let Me Die in My Footsteps" was never released on any Dylan LP.
Though Bennett's voice is not as arresting as Dylan's, it is certainly easier to listen to. Mindchange is a solid indie folk album, but it does not necessarily scream out for repeated listens. As Bennett invites on his website, where samples of his songs are available for download, "Put on a cup of coffee [and] listen to some songs," and judge for yourself.
by Kevin Shlosberg