Benyaro 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.
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Artists’ website: https://benyaro.com/
‘Pimp Wife’ – official video: