BROUGHT TO YOU IN ASSOCIATION WITH THE RHYTHM BUILDING at MUSIC ROW in NASHVILLE TENNESSEE and THERECORDSHOPNASHVILLE.COM
Late afternoon, Miami, and Iggy Pop and I were standing watching for a manatee that occasionally swims up along the river at the end of his garden. Pop was bare-chested in cerise trousers, talking about Brendan Benson. "Well you know Brendan," he said, "you how Brendan is, how Brendan sounds..." and as he spoke he waved his hand, stirring the warm air.
He was telling me why he had invited Benson to sing on a track on the Stooges' 2007 album the Weirdness. "I wanted a sweet, clean, effortless American voice on that particular chorus," he explained, as we looked down the river. "And Brendan had the voice."
For Benson, The Raconteurs was not just an opportunity to play with close friends Jack White (The White Stripes) Jack Lawrence and Patrick Keeler (The Greenhornes) but also an chance to roll around in the rock, psychedelia and blues that had shaped his musical taste. He once told me how he fell in love with the Blues when he first heard Cream playing Rollin' and Tumblin' on the radio; how this led him to Howlin Wolf and to a guitar style that is "scuffed, scruffy, flappy." "My stuff is all chords and melody," he said. "And so playing with the Raconteurs is so liberating because, when you play the blues with other people, you're all on common ground, you all know the same basics."
The key to Benson's talent has always rested there in the music itself. Through all of his songs ribbons a delight in melody. It was there in One Mississippi's Bird's Eye View, just as it is there in My Old, Familiar Friend's Poised and Ready. For Benson, words themselves are musical instruments; feel it flutter through t he rhymes of Don't Wanna Talk: "I hear you loud and clear/ But now I fear this ear/ I'm lending/ Is falling off/ And all is lost/ And it seems never-ending."
Benson's musical approach is detailed, craftsmanlike, fastidious. Take for instance A Whole Lot Better from the My Old, Familiar Friend, in which harmonies, hand-claps, guitar are layered to produce a work of such heart-filled buoyancy, a work that culminates in the sweet, dove-tailing swoop of its refrain: "I fell in love with you/ And out of love with you/ And back in love with you/ All in the same day."
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