Ben Glover comes originally from County Antrim but it was clear from his first album that his heart dwelt several thousand miles to the west. Since then he has moved to Nashville and become The Emigrant of the title. You might assume that the subject of the album would be the Irish diaspora but it goes deeper than that. Yes, there are songs of people who are a long way from home with all the emotions that brings but there are also the stories of people who have no real home and live on the edges of society.
The album opens with a robust version of ‘The Parting Glass’, which I always tend to think of as a mournful song, forgetting that the final words are “Goodnight and joy be with you all”. In the context of this album, I suppose it represents the optimism of the emigrant at the beginning of his adventure. The title track is possibly the most autobiographical of these songs, albeit a co-write with Gretchen Peters, but I found it a bit heavy-handed on first hearing, especially in comparison with Ralph McTell’s ‘From Clare To Here’. Then again, very few writers have Ralph’s ability to paint a picture with so few words. It’s growing on me, though.
Three characters who live on the fringes, for whatever reason, are the ‘Moonshiner’ who does what he does from choice, in part at least; the prisoner in ‘The Auld Triangle’ who has no choice and the veteran whose choice was denied him in Eric Bogle’s epic ‘And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda’. Each one of them is in search of a place to be.
Musically, Ben blends his Irish heritage with his love of the sounds of Nashville. Eamon McLoughlin’s strings and Skip Cleavinger’s uilleann pipes and whistles add the traditional notes while producer Neilson Hubbard provides the bass and percussion and is one of three pianists employed on various tracks. I confess that I find Ben’s vocal style rather intense and when he tries to wind it back sometimes it becomes a gravelly growl although he does capture the weariness of ‘From Clare To Here’ without sentimentality.
The Emigrant is an album that takes its time with you and it took time for me to appreciate its musically subtleties. Ben Glover’s fans will have no such problems.
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Artist’s website: www.benglover.co.uk
‘A Song Of Home’ – audio only: