• Words Chris Farlie

Midwinterfest Preview 3: Ben Smith & Jimmy Brewer EP Review x 2

On our first encounter with Ben Smith and Jimmy Brewer we may have playfully suggested that they looked like a couple of Open University professors on their way to a lecture however there was no denying their undoubted skills on guitar and how well their vocals worked together. They also have a unique ability to evoke the sound of classic sixties songwriters while maintaining a modern lyrical take that keeps them planted in the present.

They are purveyors of songs that more often than not, deal with the sadder things in life and they do by their own admission have a a strange leaning towards weather related songs - so keep an ear out for those references. What you also get are songs that really pack a lot into their short duration, painting human emotions with a level of depth not often seen within the confines of a three minute song so that you really empathize with the feelings being sung

Their eponymous EP is a pretty good representation of what they sound like live, voices and guitars in perfect harmony, The opening track "Isabella" is the jaunty sound of twin guitars, and is the most upbeat song of the EP, "What's the point of trying to see this world alone?"

"Beaten Track" has the ability to sum up a dysfunctional relationship in just one line - "You're so close but so far away from me". The song reflects on happier days when "you were the one who told me about all of your dreams". There is a sad realisation in the song that despite knowing that the relationship is dead he cannot resist the opportunity to "just to be near you once more". The tune is slow and those vocals are able to wring every ounce of angst from the lyrics.

"Tell You Anyway" is a song that even in this acoustic format comes laden full of potential hooks, while at the same time detailing two key moments between two people trying to save a relationship. First time round is it is the guy on his knees begging for her to stay - but then her "lips were sealed" - the second time round the shoe is on the other foot, it is the woman saying she was wrong, begging to rekindle things but it is far too late - "since you went away I have missed you less and less each day" and the killer final line delivered with hurt so deeply etched in it, is that "even if i wanted you I wouldn't tell you anyway". Once again not a word is wasted in this intense piece of drama.

"A Lovely Day For Doing Nothing" is one of those songs that packs in a lot as we realise that the jauntiness of the title is at odds with what is later to come. It's almost a visual song that starts in close up and then pans back to reveal just how broken the singer is. At first it might appear to be a tribute to having a lay in on a Sunday, the guitars and vocals have a hazy drunken feel about them but by verse two more is revealed. There are things around the house that need doing but that can wait to the weekend. By verse three things are looking a little depraved, the dishes need doing but it doesn't matter as all his food now comes "delivered in little boxes I forget to throw away"! while the fourth verse sees him needing to learn how to work the dryer as he has no clean clothes!

Hopefully they will also bring along their sort of second EP, a sampler that accompanied their recent trip to Nashville., a batch of six songs, each recorded live and in one take. There is some duplication in that the EP's share 3 songs but there is more than enough going on to make this an excellent companion piece.

"Another Shade Of Blue" comes once again with the trademarks that make this duo so strong, a lyrical melancholy that everyone will recognize mentally rerunning a relationship like a late night tv show hoping that the ending will be different. It is matched with a tune that seems like you should instantly recognize while remaining distinctly original - Lyrically the tone is set early "You don't forget the things that break your heart", and that feeling of emptiness runs through to the chorus.

"Don't Say You Don't Love Me" is a much more uptempo song with an almost spanish mexican feel to it, that is highly infectious, the feel good song of the EP without a doubt.

"Better Than Your Father" is a song that will resonate with many as a father as the singer outlines his wishes for daughter, "May you find someone who loves you", May you live a happy life". It is a lovely heartfelt message, including a tribute to be like the mother "she is gentle she is kind" and once again shows what can be done within the confines of a 3 minute tune

If all this sounds a little grim I should also add that in the live environment the sadness of the songs is counteracted by the humour of the between song chat and that you will not fail to come away anything other than highly impressed.The last time we saw Ben and Jimmy they were fresh back from their recent trip to the US and were now styled by the finest malls Nashville had to offer. Clearly buoyed from a successful trip and having played support slots with Graham Gouldman of 10CC and Ralph McTell their star is clearly on the rise.

MidwinterFest runs January 12th - 14th 2018

For Booking Details https://www.neo-music.net/mwf-2017-bf


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