By Benjamin Wetherill
Stuck halfway between Leonard Cohen and Nick Drake stands Benjamin Wetherill. Like his mentors, he makes beauty out of misery, armed with nothing but an acoustic guitar and the odd flutter of woodwind instruments and a cello. The cover of the CD really doesn't say much about anything really, so I had no idea what this was all about, until the slow, dulled tones of an acoustic came floating out of my CD player.
With titles like 'Waltz For Annabel', 'Gloomy Sunday' and 'Requiescal' it's easy to see where his inspiration lies. With his beautifully stripped down songs, Wetherill's voice slowly ebbs from the songs, guiding them along a slow line of misery, yet with heartbreakingly bittersweet melodies and guitar lines. And then comes a George Formby cover. What? I really wasn't expecting that, but there it is, 'Leaning On A Lampost', in all its banjo-tastic glory. Slightly out of place, but quite jaunty and cheeky, it only lasts for 1:27, so it doesn't grate. His originals, however, are where the talent lies.
'Waltz For Annabel' is probably my favourite here, with its haunting guitar picks and its nonchalant vocals; it's three minutes and forty four seconds of pure miserable bliss. 'Ada' is a beautifully melancholic number, full of that dreamy atmosphere that Mr. Cohen would most definitely approve of. There's a clarinet too, which fits into the song like a whisky bottle in the hand of Keith Richards. 'Pretty Little Girl' is another one totally out of place here, but it still sounds decent enough. Upbeat and strummy, it whips along at a furious pace before coming to an abrupt end. And there's the banjo again...
'April 8th' and a cover of Rezs˘ Seress' notorious suicide opus 'Gloomy Sunday' (banned by the BBC in the mid '40s) round off the CD to a gorgeously laidback end, if a little dark. Acoustic singer/ songwriters and jazz musicians seem to be the flavour of the month recently, and I'm all for it. Poster boys like Jamie Cullum seem content to crank out covers and rearrangements of old jazz standards, so it's very refreshing to see a guy like Wetherill come along and not only mix up original songs and covers, but actually make them all unique and sound so distinctly his.
Fans of sitting alone in a room with all the lights off will no doubt love this CD. Fans of Drake, Cohen, Dylan maybe, or even the less nutty moments of Tom Waits will also approve. As a fan of all four, I think it's a cracking collection of numbers guaranteed to have the heartstrings plucked and the melancholy dripping. This maxi EP or mini album, or whatever you want to call a compact disc with seven tracks and lasting for eighteen minutes, seventeen seconds, is a rare find. Talented, understated and packed with potential, Wetherill will no doubt go far.
lo-fi experimental indie