- 20 Mar 20
Armagh folk-rocker pays his Springsteen dues
Ben Reel bears his influences on his album sleeve, acknowledging on the cover of The Nashville Calling that he’s a fan of Bruce Springsteen and becoming understandably gleeful that this, his 9th album, was recorded in Nashville with bass guitar duties taken by Garry W Tallant of the E Street Band.
So it’s hardly surprising that the ghost of Bruce flits in and out of the 11 original tracks, as if he’s keeping a fatherly eye out. He’s there in the arrangements, some melodies and the style, although Reel’s voice never reaches the bombast of his working-class hero.
So fans of both Bruce and Ben (guilty on both counts) should feel at ease here from the opener ‘All In Good Time’, born for a stadium singalong. ‘Tough People’ even slips in a 1-2-3-4 count, and it could be an anthem for these challenging times. “Tough times they never last, tough people do”, Reel sings in a lyric that also touches on bankruptcy, redundancy and greedy banks, the Troubles, and how to survive them. The croonsomely soulful ‘Like A Breeze’ glides smoothly along with a catchy melody. ‘New Jerusalem’ is a solid 12-bar floorfiller, while Reel’s harmonica on ‘Fine Wine’ will also strike a chord back in Asbury Park.
But it’s not all Bruce. ‘Round The Next Bend’ is a seductive slow-mover, with Reel’s voice as deliciously expressive as Roy Orbison. The album ends with plaintively with ‘Borrowed Time’, also featuring Will Kimborough’s tasty electric guitar and harmony vocals from Julianne Black Reel. Her backing vocals bring much to the album, especially on the mid-tempo ‘Up There In The Sky’ which starts as a more introspective item but soon builds into a wailing rocker with gritty electric guitar from Kimborough.
The Nashville Calling is arguably Reel’s most inspired album to date, and a useful reminder that no artist of merit creates in a vacuum.