TUESDAY, JANUARY 27, 2009 |
One of the perks of being a musician, or any sort of artist really, is the freedom to express yourself in any way you wish. Artists can, on a whim, decide to stop what their doing and try something completely different, whenever they please. Many times it is a conscious decision and often it is just change that comes with living and experiencing different things. Whether Ben Kweller decided to write a country album or whether that's just how it turned out is unclear. What is for sure is that Kweller's new album deviates from anything he has done in the past. Fortunately it is also one of his best albums to date.
Changing Horses (ATO Records), which hits stores on February 2nd in Europe and February 3rd in the United States, is primarily a country record. There has always been a twangy feel to Kweller's music, but on Changing Horses we are treated to the real thing. There is pedal steel guitar all over this baby. Of course Kweller's ability to craft a stellar pop song is still present and stronger than ever.
Heartbreak, lost love and the insecurities we all feel every day are all topics explored on Changing Horses. "The Ballad of Wendy Baker" is the album's most emotional song. Accompanying Kweller's vocals, the song's only instrumentation is sparse bass and barely audible acoustic guitar strumming. At the mid-way point a string section gently sweeps in and elevates the song to a new level while Kweller's sad lyrics take the reins. The album does however, have it's moments of levity. The Beatle-esque bounciness and layered vocals on "Sawdust Man" give us some of the most exciting moments on the album. And on "Things I Like To Do" Kweller happily tells us, as the title suggests, what he likes to do, "I don't know what to do, but I know what I like to do. I like talkin' at the diner, instead of screamin' in the noisy bar. I like walkin' into public places strummin' this guitar. These are the things that I like to do. But most of all I like likin' you." How cute.
In the end we are left with a pretty sweet sounding country-pop gem. Whether Ben Kweller will continue in this vein in the future we will have to wait and see. One thing is for sure, Ben Kweller will continue to grow as a musician, and we can only hope that he is a horse that isn't done changing. -Greg Lozoff