Folking.com has already announced the imminent release of Acoustic Classics by Benjamin Folke Thomas – http://folking.com/benjamin-folke-thomas-returns-with-live-album/ – with the back story to the singer’s life and an explanation that this is a ‘live’ album with a difference: it has been recorded in Folke Thomas’ living room with himself as the ‘audience’.
I have a list on the Notes App on my phone of artists I want to see/music that I want to buy and Benjamin Folke Thomas has been on the list for a while now (a Bob Harris session a couple of years ago, I think) and the album doesn’t disappoint. The feel is very definitely a house concert, mixed with (his own) whoops, cheers, laughs, shushes and applause. There are songs from his previous albums, introductions from his life and two jokes which I think are magnificent, though my family are less convinced…….
The album starts slowly with ‘I’m Alive’ and ‘Good Friend Again’ and then begins to kick into a higher gear with ‘Love Somebody’ and ‘Finn’. It stays there until finishing with the singalong of ‘Sex Addict’. As I listened, it dawned on me that every good house concert I’ve been to does just that – the steady start as you’re sitting in a space not designed for a concert, growing to the point where it clicks into place for both artist and audience. Acoustic Classics captures it perfectly.
The songs are captivating, particularly the three in the centre of the album. ‘Finn’ moves seamlessly from the tale of Abbas, the doctor from Palestine working on a meat counter missing his family, on to Finn, the singer’s communist grandfather fighting the Nazis who became a refugee, and finally to the singer’s sister who is living, by choice, in India. Three tales of movement linked by a unfulfilled desire to be with family and the closing refrain “Time flies by so fast/spend it with the people you love”. ‘Married’ is an old story of not winning the girl because of her religion – “Sin couldn’t touch the ground she walked” – but becomes a modern one because of Folke Thomas’ ability to use Facebook to see what has happened to her. It is also a reflection of how she stills touches on his happiness. ‘Copenhagen 30/6’ is a similarly reflective tale of love with a melodic chorus and contrasting lyrics “Like a chain tied around the neck/through the meltdowns you’re a rock I’m a wreck…how can someone like you love somebody like me”
The album artwork is an homage to Folke Thomas’ country heroes and the album also captures elements of country music while never quite going there. The vocal on ‘I’m Alive’ edges towards Johnny Cash; in ‘Sex Addict’ Folke Thomas inhabits the negative personality that the girl and – a wonderful touch – her father now use to describe him; despite its romantic title, ‘Woman I Love’ is another self-knowing leaving song “I’ve been labeled a criminal, labeled a crook/ By the Woman I Love”.
Two years down the line from making the note that I should find out more about Benjamin Folke Thomas I’ve been lucky enough to get this album to review. It’s probably not an album for the car, the finger picking is great and the lyrics are Loudon-Wainwright-subtle, but the road noise is louder. However, listen properly to the album, as you would in a house concert, and you’ll be rewarded with a great introduction to a skilled artist..
The website below has a link to gigs in summer and autumn, beginning with Cropredy on August 11th. My surprise is that he’s playing at the Brasenose Arms, not on the main stage.