Ben Hemming – City of Streets | Album Review

Ben Hemming – City of Streets


CD: 11 Songs, 33:04 Minutes

Styles: Drone/Trance Blues, Contemporary Acoustic Blues Rock, All Original Songs

BluesBlast Magazine has characterized the music of Great Britain’s Ben Hemming as “songs of bleak beauty.” The cover art of his sophomore release, City of Streets, is certainly bleak, all in shades of washed-out blue-grays. According to Ben’s website, featuring the above quote, “The title of the album…was chosen as the majority of the songs were written in London, were Ben Hemming is currently based, and were an attempt to embody the isolation that lies at the heart of the modern metropolis.” Sound depressing? It kind of is, as is the ambiance of this CD. FULL DISCLOSURE: Drone/trance blues is not everyone’s cup of tea, whether it comes from the UK or the North Mississippi Hill Country. Hemming’s angst-ridden monotone will remind listeners far more of R.E.M. or Kurt Cobain than Jimmy Reed or Albert Collins. There are no danceable numbers on this album, either, although a few are up-tempo. One good thing about it is that every song is original, with an hour’s worth of meaning packed into just over thirty minutes.

States Moria Dennnison, Hemming’s publicist: “City of Streets is Ben Hemming’s second studio album and was recorded in the small Norwegian town of Spydeberg, 40 minutes away from the capital, Oslo, at ‘Velvet Recording’ – a state-of-the-art studio with an impressive live room. This enabled Ben Hemming’s backing band to be recorded playing together, and gave an amazing live vibe to the album. It was produced by Nick Terry, who has worked with some big names such as The Libertines, Ian Brown, and Klaxons. His initiative, work ethic, and production techniques gave the release a distinctive sound all of its own.”

Performing along with acoustic guitarist Hemming are Raf Ruocco on double bass and Eric Young on drums.

The following tune may not be blues per se, as most people know them, but it’s the one that made Ms. Rainey Wetnight sit up in her computer chair and pay strict attention.

Track 04: “Devil’s Soul” – This magazine’s genre of choice has often been called “the devil’s music,” as opposed to soul and gospel. Our narrator claims to have the spirit of the Adversary within his own mortal frame. With a hard-driving, chugga-chugga rhythm on his acoustic shredder, Ben Hemming howls in torment as he sings the lyrics. “Show me where to go,” he begs God – or his audience – in the chorus. The band Nirvana would be right proud of this number.

London is a City of Streets. If you’re in a zone-out mood, blues fans, Ben Hemming can relate!

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