Benjamin Folke Thomas – Acoustic Classics
Louvaio Productions – 10 July
A swift follow-up to Copenhagen released earlier back in March, this captures Swedish singer-songwriter Benjamin Folke Thomas live with just an acoustic guitar – and lengthy repartee. The album was recorded in Ben’s house and the whole album is him, including the audience, every clap, cheer and talking – he wanted “the friendliest audience…It’s all me…”. The ten tracks draw on material from his three studio albums as well as three that, while regulars in his shows, have never been previously available on disc.
It’s one such song that gets the show underway, I’m Alive, a country strummer that underlines the very Cash-like gravelly quality to his singing voice and is one of his stock in trade numbers about screwing up a relationship. Featured on the recent album, although the line about hearing a couple fucking in the room next door rather precludes extensive airplay, Good Friend Again, a reminiscence of his time living in London, is one of his best songs to date with its line about needing to start drinking again to stay sane and cope with “these avenues of shame”.
He tells two jokes, the first being The Ice Cream Man. That leads into the Texicali-flavoured Love Somebody off his debut album and from there straight into the near six-minute Finn, a song from Copenhagen about his grandfather, a communist who fought the Nazis in WWII, but also about a doctor from Palestine with whom he worked with at a store meat department, and of his sister, now living with her family in India, the message being that time is short (it references the death of Kurt Cobain), so you should spend it with those you love.
Given a lengthy introduction about his doomed love affair with a devout Evangelical teenage girl who refused to have sex before marriage and his subsequent inability to shake her from his heart, the wistful Married is one of the best tracks off Rogue State of Mind and a firm highlight of his live shows.
The Penguins is his second joke, and has considerably funnier punchline, heading then into the shuffling Copenhagen 30/6 about finding salvation in a supportive woman.
Another good woman love song, firmly steeped in Cash country Nothing Next To You is another new to disc number, followed in turn by the bluesy bruised and spurned Woman In Love off Rogue and Copenhagen’s Tom Russell-inspired fingerpicked homesickness vignette of Postcard From Cazal.
He closes with Sex Addict, a number that always goes down a storm live, setting up with a lengthy introduction about yet another doomed and incompatible romance from his younger days, the kiss off text message she sent him winding up as the chorus here about him being “a sex addict, a drug addict, irrational and gay.” He does, I should add, pause midway to point out there’s nothing wrong with being gay, but, as he says, it’s a bit odd to use as an insult to someone with whom you’ve been in a heterosexual relationship.
While capturing the relaxed, intimate live feel of his solo shows, I’m not sure the introductions, which can take up almost half the track running time, are something that you won’t want to fast forward through after first hearing, but, whether already a fan or a newcomer, the songs are definitely ones for repeat play.