DAVID BENJAMIN BLOWER – Kindness Is Solid Stone Violence Is A Heavy Loan To Pay (own label download)

Kindness Is Solid Stone Violence Is A Heavy Loan To PayThe Birmingham-based theological agitator and singer-songwriter, takes time off from his Messianic Folklore podcast to release a new album, Kindness Is Solid Stone Violence Is A Heavy Loan To Pay, that might be best musically described as a cross between Beans On Toast and Hurt era Johnny Cash, a heady brew of philosophy, existentialism, benediction and protest.

Voice soaring on the refrain and guitar – and possibly mandolin – strummed, it kicks off with ‘Finger In The Wind’ which has mountain music folk hints and prophetic end of days lyrics (“See the valleys lifted up/Rise, scum of the earth/See the mountains crashing down…All y’are as flowers and grass/Nations as handfuls of dust/All your princes brought to nought”). A steady marching drum beat and piano underpin the title track with its vision of a world of equality (“The way is like the rain that falls/And waters all regardless/The way is like the sun that rises/Upon enemies and others”) and that “there may come a day/And may the day be real/When the gentle shall raise their hands/And the proud will kneel”, the latter part of the title referring to the consequences of our actions (“someone pays for everything I break”).

Fingerpicked and punctuated by distant piano notes, ‘Now We Gaze Into A Mirror ‘again has dusty American hymnal folk notes to a simple lyric about an uncertain future (“we gaze into a mirror dimly/Toward the unknown lands of knowing”) before a tribal drum thump rhythm and intermittent clanging percussion carries the compelling hypnotic six-minute ‘No Debts. No Masters. No Law. No Caesars’, the title pretty much comprising the entirety of the lyrics along with the repeated refrain “Love fulfils it all/Love will be all in all” where thoughts of Iron & Wine, Mark Kozalek or Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy might not go amiss.

Another simple folky, sparsely picked guitar number, ‘The Rain Not The Thunder’ serves up a metaphor about how a whisper can be more effective than a scream as he sings “it’s the rain, not the thunder/That makes the flowers bloom” with its call to “join hands in the ring” suggesting ancient rituals. Opening a capella before guitar and dobro arrive and the rhythm picks up, ‘Gather Round The Table O My Enemies’ is a particularly striking number that sounds like some old time Appalachian preacher’s gospel (“I’ll pray for you all/As my cheeks run with oil/And make offerings by fire for your souls/I’ll pray that we all/May rest by quiet waters/In the goodness and the mercy of the age”) with its prayer “O god of our gladness/O god of our madness and our grief/Care for our bodies/O god of our enemies/O god of our wandering feet”.

That same quality extends to the cracked vocals of ‘Empty Thyselves ‘ that returns to the theme of humility, love and equality (“Think not thyself to be more than thou art/And judge thyself with courageous heart/Greet ye everyone with honour/And love ye, always, love one another”), the only track to have a specific religious note (“in God’s love may your minds be remade/And empty thyself as an offering”) in its Desiderata-styled prescription for a good life (“Rejoice with those who now rejoice/And weep with those who speak with broken voice/So far as you may be at peace with all/Stand alongside those of no report…Never avenge offence for offence/Pay back your enemies with love, my friends/May your prayers resound in all that you do/Welcome saint and welcome strangers too/May your prayers be wound of many a threat/And evil overcome with good”).

Just over 80 seconds with again just minimal acoustic guitar backing, ‘Meet Me Where I Sing And Stamp My Feet’ heads to the end with its call for shared communion, troubles and jubilation (“Meet me in the temple of my heart…Meet me in the sorrows of the night/Meet me in the troubles of my days/Walk with me through the times of wilderness and pain/Meet me where my prayers arise again… Let us be in love and cry and sing and laugh until the dawn/Meet me in the tavern of my dreams”). Finally, the lyrics again pretty much comprising of just the staccato title, it ends with the pulsing percussive drone and reverberating deep plangent piano notes of the almost ethereal ‘Covers. Believes. Holds. Stays.’, a final hillside chapel-like hymnal blessing of an all-encompassing peace and assurance. It might not reach the wide audience it deserves, but Kindness Is Solid Stone Violence Is A Heavy Loan To Pay is one of the finest old school Americana folk albums of the year.

Mike Davies

Artist’s website: www. benjaminblower.bandcamp.com/album/kindness-is-solid-stone-violence-is-a-heavy-loan-to-pay

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