“What I’m listening to” is a weekly series of music that reigns at the top of my personal playlist. Music that I think is cool and deserves a mention and some extra attention.
This week: Ben Howard.
Keep your head up. Inspirational words set to a real nice guitar-groove driven tune that instantly did something to me back when I first heard it. It was my -then- drummer and friend Victor that was blasting the tune trough our band-bus’ speakers while we were driving to a gig somewhere in nowhereland (really can’t remember). Victor’s always had a nice taste in music. And is a fantastic drummer by the way.
A few weeks later my then most talented student named Timo came to class asking if maybe I could make a piano version out of -yes, you guessed it- Ben Howard’s “The Fear” and teach that to him. Didn’t know the tune nor had I remembered the name of this intriguing singer-songwriting that was telling us to keep our heads up, so I was happily surprised to both recognize the raw voice I hadn’t heard in a while, and be struck again by one of his signature-style guitar grooves.
This time I decided that Ben was quite cool. Cool enough to start checking out more.
As you know I’m a big fan of live, stripped, acoustic etc. versions. If an artist pulls it off to enchant in such kind of performance, you know he/she has true talent. After teaching Timo “The Fear” I couldn’t help myself but scrounge the youtubez looking for Ben’s talent. I looked. And I found.
From “Only Love” to that same “Fear” and some more tunes in between, live, raw, solo guitar, grooving, flowing, melodic, strong lyrics. Wow. His songwriting skills both in terms of groove, melody and harmonizing; producing songs almost all carried by strong melodic and grooving guitar riffs originating from those sweet set of chosen harmonies are truly out of this world.
That was how I thought about him back then. However, a few years later, I met my girlfriend.
I could write a true love story here, which I almost did just now, but that would maybe miss the point (being the artist) here, so I’m cutting it short a bit (for now). Point is, she likes a bit of everything in regard to music, except for two artists, that she’ll really admit herself being a “fan” of. One of those I won’t tell you now (’cause that might juice up the next time when I DO decide to go romantic with a story) the other one I think you can guess.
And so, without spilling too many more words, this kinda becomes a -albeit short- romantic love story after all: Ben has a special place in my heart.
Unknowingly he wrote and played a large part of the soundtrack to our early love. Our first concert together was the release show of his -dare I say it- even better follow-up album “I Forget Where we Were” at the Heineken Music Hall in our hometown Amsterdam. Damn.
Before we went to that show, we were listening to our fair share of Ben already, but with the release of this new album, Ben hasn’t left the top of my (our) playlist ever since. I think the digital files are even starting to show some signs of wear and tear.
four five favorite tracks, a bit in “chronological” order. My absolute favorite? Hard… “Time is Dancing” is one that is just so relaxing, especially after a couple of spins. But hey. (I got a woman at home and) “She –definitely– Treats me Well”.