Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Building a More Perfect Union

In my line of work, I hear A LOT of music.  Sometimes I have to step back and give myself a break from it as it tends to all run together and sound the same.  Having recently come off a self-imposed hiatus from listening to new music, one of the first places I turned was a band called Ben Union.  Led by a cat called Ben this band first came onto my radar about a year and a half ago when the teenage daughter of a friend of mine visiting from Alaska mentioned she wanted to see this show up on the Hill by a band I had never heard of before.   She waxed on with “OMG! Ben is such a hottie!”  I smiled appreciatively and said if she needed anyone to take her, I would be happy to as I clearly remember a time *not so long ago* when I wanted to go to shows as a teenager and my Pop-eschewing parents wouldn’t take me.
(Remember the NKOTB incident, Mother??)
Anyway, during the ensuing year I heard noise here and there about the band, but didn’t pay it much attention as I was still trying to absorb what was happening around me, attempting to learn what I could about the whole Scene by osmosis.  A chance meeting with Ben a couple weeks ago prompted me to download the band’s album, titled This Blessed Union, Volume 1.   I had been told by a mutual friend that it seemed Ben had run the gamut of life’s difficulties just by the tone set in his lyrics.  At the time I thought “what songwriter hasn’t portrayed that in his music?”  Now that I have heard the album in its entirety several times over, I see what she means.  The lyrics are honest and hard-hitting, giving the listener a peek into the complicated soul of their writer.  Poignantly expressive, Ben is just an honest person.  Having spent a little bit of time with him the past month I know him to be a spiritual man with a deep respect for his faith and beliefs; outgoing and friendly, he has a calm about him that can belie the energetic passion expressed in his work.   I’ve not seen Ben Union perform live, but I understand they are all brilliant showmen who leave the audience in a sticky tizzy. 
My only cause for hesitation after listening to the album was the lyrics might be little too deep to appeal to the commercial masses.  What works in the Northwest, may not fly at the Mall of America.  There is a reason the Katy Perrys and Justin Biebers of the world are so successful…the songs are about as deep as the shallow candy dish in which they are presented to their audience.   These are troubled times and people are looking for escape.  It’s a fine line to walk as a pop songwriter….how far to the edge do you go before you fall off?  Even so, the musicianship is clearly present on all the tracks and provides a catchy, arse-shaking platform for the words. 
I hear that Volume 2 is in the works.  With a resourceful and brilliant management team behind the band, fortifying a talent and tenacity that comes so naturally I’m looking forward to hearing and seeing what is coming Ben Union’s way in the not-so-distant future.   

Side bar - if you are interested in seeing Ben Union live and in person, there's a show this Saturday at the High Dive.  Prepare to get sweaty.

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