Friday, February 21, 2014


Benmont Tench has been a rock to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers since the mid-70's, and just as valuable to dozens of other projects, as a highly-desired session player.  However, he's always been in the background, a real quiet one.  So the big question here is, what kind solo album will he make?  No surprise, it's relatively quiet, but in a very good, mellow way.  Tench is not a grand vocalist, more gravelly than anything, so the laid back approach works best.  As you could expect, the strengths here are the sound, the melodies, and the knowledge of how to package a song well.

He's written the bulk of the tracks here, including the lyrics, aside from a couple of piano mood instrumentals, and a couple of Dylan covers.  Dylan is the biggest influence, the latter-day gruff chronicler, lots of description pouring out over a sharp band.  Of course, Tench has lots of famous pals ready to pay back; his boss Petty joins on electric bass, while Don Was handles upright bass on the mellower numbers.  Dave Rawlings and Gillian Welch are in for some harmonies and acoustics along the way, as is Ryan Adams, and even Ringo Starr shows up for some tasty, audible tambourine.  But it's the keys that dominate, whether Tench's bright piano, or rootsy, Garth Hudson-influenced organ.

Given the laid-back vibe, there are still a couple of decent rockers, including You Should Be So Lucky, certainly the one that most conjures up the Heartbreakers, with its put-down "you should be so lucky that I would give a fuck."  It's the easy feel that wins though, with Blonde Girl, Blue Dress the best of them, no brilliant lyrical statement but a cozy, sunny day number with Welch sweetening up the proceedings, and Tench filling with great organ.  Like his entire career, this ain't flashy, but it's classy.

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