BENYARO – One Step Ahead Of Your Past (own label)

One Step AheadBenyaro is the musical vehicle of multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Ben Musser from the mountain resort town of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. He is partnered by Leif Routman on double bass and Brian Geltner on drums and percussion – ostensibly an acoustic trio but sounding much bigger. One Step Ahead Of Your Past is Musser’s third album and strongly autobiographical, describing “a period in which I became a husband and a father”.

Benyaro have been described as punk Americana but they must have some very polite punks in Jackson Hole. There is, however, a bitterness, a cynicism in the opening four tracks which run together with only a count-in to separate ‘Nice ‘N’ Easy’ from its predecessors. In particular, ‘Breadwinner’ takes a particularly jaundiced view of the role of a man in contemporary society. ‘Pimp Wife’, featuring Jacob Rodriguez’s sax, takes a similarly sour look at marriage – “Like a Time Square hooker/She tries to sell her man” – I wonder that Ben is still married!

The album powers along relentlessly and, on first listening, I was half-way through before I realised. Then comes a change. First there’s a short acoustic guitar solo, ‘Temporary Lapse Of Sense Of Humour’, followed by the rap and beatboxing of ‘Home Cookin’’ and with ‘New Moon’, Ben is taking a long hard look at himself and on ‘I Do’ the darkness is back. It is clear by the end of the record that a profound change has taken place in the writer and you realise that he’s content, if not idealistically happy.

Musically, Benyaro, often sounds like a stripped down rock band with Musser’s guitar sounding like an electric even when the notes tell you that he’s playing a nylon-string acoustic. The biggest sounds come from his piano and Geltner’s drums but the songs carry the day. One Step Ahead Of Your Past is an insightful, fascinating album.

Dai Jeffries

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‘Pimp Wife’ – official video: