BEN REEL – Come A Long Way

Ben Reel 2023

BEN REEL –
Come A Long Way

From present √Čire to reminiscences of the past, self-reinventing minstrel is tripping down memory lane.

Introspection has always played a major part in Ben Reel’s oeuvre, even though a lot of his songs seem to be in minor, yet if the Irish musician’s 2018 effort "Land Of Escape" was a wonderful instant of his craft, with subsequent concert documents and a set preserved for posterity in Nashville, this offering finds him turn the regular formula on its head to go down the rabbit hole of taking stock. Devised during the pandemic period, the pieces that form “Come A Long Way” reflect Ben’s desire to glance over his shoulder and painstakingly plan further steps – which is why, perhaps, such soul-searching resulted in Reel’s attempt to provide his voice with different personas and, thus, highlight the essence of what he’s done until now.

The key to this album is not the minor one, however. For those who missed the clues scattered around the first ten cuts, its gloomy finale “I Shall Be Redeemed” – which channels both Dylan and Cash and wraps it up in a spiritually majestic way – will have the answers to all the questions the listener may ask from upbeat pop-folk opener “Don’t Fight It Baby” – immaculately sculpted, delivered in an irresistibly alluring, intimate voice, and given a delicate guitar twang and synthesizer’s shimmer – onwards. Going through predatory promises of the riff-driven, insistently scintillating “Hunter” and the pensive “Hardwired Blues” in which harmonica-spiced countrified licks lay the blame for enforced procrastination on complacency, Ben doesn’t stop at his inner-world affairs, letting the finely orchestrated epic “From The Day I Was Born” flow like a proper protest song and listing names of politicians and name of places where war raged at various points of Reel’s life. Still, the platter’s piano-laden title track locates pride and glory in the many miles the artist’s left behind, and the funky “Let The Road Rise” gets a gospel choir, made up of vocals by Ben and his wife Julieanne, vie for space with another family member, Gerry Black Jr’s taut six strings, before the pedal-steel-caressed “Loretto On My Mind” evokes Orbison-patented balladry and reveals new colors to Reel’s velveteen pipes, while the acoustically laced “I Get It” transmogrifies external virus into lovesickness to bring hope to the surface.

Yet the stately “Old Whore” unseals unexpected sentiments Messrs. Zimmerman and Brel could kill for, and the Jagger-teasing “The Finish Line” throws together the many characters Ben Reel reeled in over the years in a bluesy groove. Yes, he’s come a long way, and it felt good to be following him, so feeling tired and leaving him is not an option now.

****1/4

December 21, 2023

Category(s): Reviews
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