Ben Sures’ album The Story That Lived Here is filled with “unfinished conversations” and is coloured with characters who “dream of dolphins and having a drink”.
Those are nice words – all the way from Edmonton, Canada!
The great Paul Simon, whose calm song sung wise demeanor pervades many of these tunes, once sang in the persona of Lincoln Duncan, “I was playing my guitar/Lying underneath the stars/Just thanking the Lord for my fingers”.
Indeed, these are songs that praise the stars with fingers that play guitar and touch the deep, dark, and sometimes over-exposed photographs of an oddly melodic room in the recesses of any very human heart. ‘End Of The World’, with a certain tongue in cheek, contemplates an apocalyptic lifeboat checklist. There’s “a cinnamon bun,” “no more eggs and bacon,” and “a crash test dummy” involved in the lockdown whimsy. Indeed, ‘Nuff said!
But then, Ben plays his multi-aced psychological poker hand. ‘Before We Had Sarah’ is a confessional booth get well card to a distanced wife and equally distanced life before children; and well, the stuff of life itself, as it just wears away at the tire tread of daily and hopeful love. It’s a brilliant song – set, ironically, to a happy melody. The great John Prine comes to mind. The same is true for ‘The Story’, which visits the last moments of anyone’s life. Ben’s guitar playing oozes pathos. And the tune is filled with “conversations” that are no longer “dangling” and are now just left (as said) “unfinished”. And his lyrics are “swirling like a dancer”. This tune manages to cut into the deep blood of a sacred glance and the ultimate vigil of a love’s sincere and final passing. The song thumps like an expectant funeral procession. Then, ‘40 Days’ gets radioactive in its depiction of a recovering alcoholic. The song bleeds raw addiction “without romance” – condensed into the pulse rate of a really profound folk song that taps into the despair of Phil Ochs, circa Tape From California – with the tough touch of a stressed violin solo to heighten the tension. Oh my – ‘Boring People’ slows the pace to a whisper and sings with a foggy doubt that’s thick enough to dull the brightest search light that somehow, even with such a simple melody and our dear “Lincoln Duncan” still “just thanking the Lord for my fingers”, is still just a soundtrack for a rescue boat in a desperate search for an honest recovery.
Thankfully, there’s a brief respite here and there. ‘Library Ladies’ is a delightful memory of the old library “Saturdays” that were safe – like a warm mandolin solo – with “information with a smile”, which is, sadly now, lost to an “electric kiosk” and “security guards”. Odd – it’s a youthful and joyous thought, yet the sadness still persists in the juxtaposition between then and now. It’s a nice metaphor. Then a quiet determination follows a nameless singer in ‘Cry Like A Flood” who never makes it (in true narrative form tragic car accident), to expected stardom in New York; yet she still manages to sing with simple beauty “through apartment walls”, so her “neighbours can still her song”. Perhaps, that’s a folk song eternal triumph. Then, ‘My Father’s Shoes’ recalls Ben’s dad (a ceramic artist of national Canadian fame) and his “neon green and blue” shoes, which have now become a son’s prize possession. The tune touches (with a unique symbolism) a universal resolution to a familiar moment in every child’s grown-up life. It doesn’t quite hit the pathos target as well as Allan Taylor’s ‘My Father’s Room’, but it’s pretty darn close.
And the brilliant ‘No One Will Remember You’, again, tells the tale of a decent guy who confronts all the impossibilities of life. Some (unnamed) small town bar circuit singer is stuck playing Eagles’ covers, to a rowdy crowd who, as John Fogerty once sang, “Just sat there drunk”. But as always, Ben’s songs carve a double edge, as the song is, ironically, given a highly memorable chorus! And oddly, it’s still a Siren’s call to shout out a decent song—even into a popular culture happy to have beeswax stuffed into its collective ears. It’s sort of like Paul Simon’s (to make a third reverential reference!) ‘The Boxer’ as “the poor boy” shouts, “‘I am leaving, I am leaving’/But the fighter still remains”. This song glances into obscurity and yet manages a meager and sincere bet on any random number at a shifty craps table–in a casino that provides musical entertainment by some band who plays the best of the Bee Gees and other assorted big radio hits of the 70’s.
The final song, ‘Maybe When I’m Older’, simply accepts all the oddly shaped jigsaw pieces of life as they as tossed upon a table in some weird hope that they may, someday, all fit together. And its hopeful levity circles back to that first song, ‘End Of The World’, and once again bounces on the waves of uncertainty and manages a grin, even perhaps a laugh, in a world in which “Lincoln Duncan” or any of us in this modern world, can always “sing lying underneath the stars”, and “Thank the Lord for my (and our each and all collective) melodic folk singer “fingers”.
Artist’s website: https://www.bensures.com/
‘End Of The World’ – official lyric video: