SPREADING THE GOSPEL – BRENDAN BENSON

Brendan-BensonBrendan Benson is a 43 year old hailing from Michigan and is a multi instrumentalist with six solo albums and numerous collaborations under his belt. He has also started his own record company called Readymade Records.

I’m not American so I have no idea if Brendan Benson is big over in his native lands, but over here in England he isn’t nearly well known enough. In fact, he is probably more famous for being in the Jack White led Raconteurs than his own solo work. Ironically, his solo work is far better in my opinion.

Check this lot out…

One Mississippi (1996)

mississippi

Key Track: Imaginary Girl

Benson’s debut is a mix of Beatles-esque melodic power pop, and a harder sound that was probably more a sign of the times rather than any prediction of what was to come. A solid if unspectacular debut from Benson.

3 guitars

Lapalco (2002)

lapalco

Key Track: Metarie

Benson’s breakthrough album, and an absolute gem of power pop song writing. This was my first exposure after I heard the song Folk Singer off of a magazine cover CD. I bought the album and subsequently fell in love with the short bursts of melodic greatness in songs like Metarie, Tiny Spark, Good To Me and Life In The D.

5 guitars

The Alternative To Love (2005)

alternative

Key Track: The Pledge

The follow up to Lapalco was equally well received, and shows just how strong Benson’s song writing is. This album is more of the same, but with new elements added, like the Phil Spector-ish The Pledge, and some nice acoustic numbers like What I’m Looking For.

4.5 guitars

My Old Familiar Friend (2009)

familiar

Key Track: Eyes On The Horizon

The difficult album that any rock star encounters. The one they make when they are newly happy with the love of a wife and children! Not one of Benson’s best, due to the crisp production, which is at odds with his previous releases. Because Benson has such a knack for hooks and melodies, the record is never a total disappointment, just not up to his best.

3 guitars

What Kind of World (2012)

whatkind of world

Key Track: Bad For Me

An album featuring members of Ryan Adams band, it is a return to form after the disappointing reviews for My Old Familiar Friend. Again, it’s probably not up there with the likes of Lapalco but it still has some fantastic seventies classic rock and pop style songs as you would expect to hear from any Brendan Benson album.

3.5 guitars

You Were Right (2013)

right

Key Track: I’ll Never Tell

Brendan Benson followed up What Kind of World quickly, releasing You Were Right within a year. And what a follow up! More of the same melodic power pop from albums of old, and probably his best since The Alternative To Love. Comprised of a compilation of singles released in a series, as well as unrecorded songs left over from previous albums, this album shouldn’t be as coherent as it is. Another classic to add to your Brendan Benson collection!

4 guitars

Some other works to consider:

Broken Boy Soldiers – The Raconteurs (2006)

raconteurs

Key Track: Steady As She Goes

The band is well known as being a Jack White vehicle, but Benson more than holds his own next to his more esteemed counterpart, offering such gems as the co-write and single Steady As She Goes. Where the album might have just been another White Stripes-esque project if it was solely White steering the ship, Benson makes sure there are nods to The Beatles and other classic rock acts, which gives the album more diversity.

4 guitars

Consolers of the Lonely – The Raconteurs (2008)

consolers

Key Track: Carolina Drama

The follow up to The Raconteurs popular debut was this album, which, if anything outshone what went before. It owes a huge debt to Led Zeppelin (Jack White’s blues parts) and Beatlesy melodic pop (Benson’s parts) among others. It is a cracking second album by the supergroup, and it seems their last release, at least for now, with White moving on to the less impressive Dead Weather.

4 guitars

About thomasjford

I like Movies and Music and most things popular culture.

7 comments

  1. Excellent post, Tom. Thanks for shining a spotlight on such an under-appreciated artist. I’m American and I can tell you that he’s not well known beyond serious music lovers. I’ve been a fan since his debut album, but really started loving his music with “Lapalco” (the fact that his collaborator on that album was the amazing Jason Falkner is what drew me in). Since I’m not much of a Jack White/White Stripes fan (he/they are okay but never an important artist for me) I’ve always thought of The Raconteurs as Brendan Benson’s band that has Jack White as a member. I think I’m in the minority with that opinion.

    Oh, I completely agree with your album rankings. For anyone who’s new to his music, you can’t go wrong with anything he’s been a part of, but any of Tom’s 4-guitar or higher rankings are great places to start.

    • Thanks for the reply Rich! Glad you like Brendan Benson, not enough people do! I think they WOULD, they just haven’t heard of him unfortunately.

      I think Lapalco or The Alternative To Love are his best. His new one is pretty decent as well!

  2. Thanks. Hadn’t heard his stuff other than with Jack White. I’ll definitely check out his stuff. x

  3. I actually had the pleasure of seeing Benson in concert back in ’05 right after The Alternative To Love came out. He put on a great show.

    Lapalco is still my favourite of his stuff, I never get tired of that album.

    • Yeah I agree Courtney, Lapalco is brilliant from start to finish, with The Alternative To Love a close second. The guy is criminally under appreciated I think.

      Thanks for the comment and follow!

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