Land Of Shadows – Ben Bedford (Hopeful Sky Records)
The story unfolds slow, delicate, unwinds from the sharply written focus of the first line, and shifts into the mood and soul of a young soldier from long ago, and the words take on a frenzy made tense as they are counterpointed by the gentleness, the regret, the empathy of the musicians. As we are led back, full circle, to the opening vision, we have to wonder is this a song of hope (that the beauty exists even as we kill each other) or a song of almost unbearable sadness because the memory evoked shows there is no way for our ‘hero’ to get home.
Welcome then to the Land Of Shadows, where ghosts are created as we listen. Where the naïve recruits, the worn out rejects, the wounded romantics, the doomed and the survivors all demand, with quiet insistence that their tales be told.
Musically the tracks are rich in subtle variation, dabs of accordion, banjo, dobro, fiddles and such, blend into the melodies, but no showboating here, no production tricks seeking unwanted attention.
This collection has something of the way that Springsteen has about capturing the soul of the so called Common Joe, but without the bombast that sometimes sneaks into his songs, these are no widescreen epics, these heroes do not fight or toil for death or glory, but to survive, to love again, to get home and live their lives, their desire is to carry on, and let the brutality wash away, if it can.
The paradox here is that these tunes are not depressing, rather there is something uplifting, even joyful in the hushed revelations. And when the singer tackles the love song (You’re The Weather, One Night At A Time) It is his skill with the tiny details that seem to make these things personal to whoever is listening.
I found this a joy to discover and hear. These are stories I will return to again and again.
You can hear tracks from this album on the NBT Podcast going out on the 30th June 2010