Ben Sures is a Canadian singer songwriter whose latest album, Poema Poematis, was released worldwide on June 17th. His website tells you, “We are holding off on the Jupiter and Mars releases til we see how the album does on this planet”.
That kinda tells you the first thing you need to know about the album – you shake your head at some points, part in amusement, part in ‘how-do-you write-lines-like-that puzzlement and admiration’ (‘Used to Have a Raygun’ for example about a girl who had a raygun which she could point at a guy to make him like her – or use it to rewind time so she could do better in a conversation with him.)
The second thing to know is that the album is a version of a more than sell-out live concert of Sures’ music, recorded with arrangements for horn and strings and sponsored by the Canadian Council for Arts. As a result, there’s often a jazzy feel to the songs – an ideal match to Sures’ humour and perspective. ‘Winnipeg’ is my favourite track, a lovely arrangement to a song which took me back to my own hometown teenage years as Sures captures snapshots of his youth: “the first girl I ever dumped”; the diner they all spent time in, complained about – yet he knows that “that place was half our life”; and the lovely paradox of “Every sidewalk whispers back at me and calls me names…I don’t think about Winnipeg but it haunts me every day”.
‘Holes’ has a classic sax-driven jazz sound to a playful lyric; ‘In Burma’ – a song about avoiding being killed in various ways, from shooting to cyclones – has an arrangement that wouldn’t be out of place in Rick’s Café and Bar. There is a jauntiness to ‘Where Are They Now’ and ‘Maybe’. ‘In A Perfect World’ – where “you wouldn’t have to floss/In a Perfect World you could shoot your boss” – races through the song.
It’s a live concert and Sures is an assured (sorry) entertainer, working with the band to add life to songs that were written without expecting this interpretation (“It’s nice to have a band because in House Concerts I play both roles”). The arrangements were by Edmonton trombonist Audrey Ochoa and there is a spark to this album – skillful, quirky and humorous both in the songwriting and in the arrangements.
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