Title - 'Hendra' (Caroline International)
Artist - Ben Watt
After having spent twenty years in the British duo known as Everything But The Girl, ten years as a respected DJ and even a record label boss of Buzzin’ Fly, Ben Watt finally took some time off from all that and concentrated on putting together (and subsequently putting out) two new solo projects.
The first was his long-awaited second book, ‘Romany and Tom’ (a book wholly about his parents), the second was his first solo album for over thirty years, Hendra.
Described by Watt himself as “simply a folk-rock record in an electronic age,” Hendra’s ten songs that surround everyday working entities such Watt’s close family, resilience, hope, and even strangers. Recorded in London and Berlin, the music on Hendra is a true meeting of languid folk and distorted rock - with a hint of electronics buzzing around in there somewhere.
This delightful, truly delightful new album from Watt starts with that gentle electronic hum before the true story-telling of the title track ‘Hendra’ comes forth. Whether Hendra is a woman or an entity that surrounds us, Watt reveals that he would not only follow, but become a better person for her/it. The next track, ’Forget’ is a surprisingly bouncy pop/folk mixture. I say surprisingly as you don’t normally associate Watt with such a near-dance floor, foot-tappin’ track. Well, not with him on main vocals, anyway! That all said, it is definitely the highlight of this album and comes complete with one of life’s most profound of lyrics: “You can push things to the back of your mind, but you can never forget“.
‘Spring’ is a much slower track and allows Watt to wax ecstatic about so-called silver moments and the love that he feels being real. Indeed, it has such a gentle reverb that you could easily believe this was either an old Beatles track or an old McCartney demo. That’s followed by the gentle acoustic guitar strumming and vocal sway of ‘Golden Ratio,’ and then both the ring road to the South‘s destination for scattering his father’s ashes of ‘Matthew Arnold’s Field,’ and the more electronic-tinged story of weapons and laws within ‘The Gun.’
The guitars finally crank up and get movin’ with ‘Nathaniel,’ a fast-paced Americana tale of losing someone in Oregon and how a community comes to grieve, before a guitar cameo from Pink Floyd’s very own David Gilmour on ‘The Levels’ is given to us. Another laid back cut full of silky soul with contemporary folk, the album continues on towards its close with both the more (slightly) upbeat ‘Young Man’s Game’ and then finally the slow electronic drawl of ‘The Heart Is A Mirror’(“Where it‘s easy just to see your own face.”)
Reviewed by: Russell A. Trunk