Review: Ben Prestage – Real Music
Posted on: Thursday, Nov 25, 2010
(Nugene Records – NUG1005)
Ben Prestage has been creating a buzz for a couple of years with his stunning live shows, and here Nugene have put out his first UK release, “Real Music”, a collection of mainly covers from some giants of country blues such as Blind Boy Fuller, Bukka White, Skip James and more, with a couple of self-penned offerings.
The young man from Florida comes into the ‘one man band’ category, playing traditional guitars, Dobro, diddley-bow and foot drums, topped by his gravelly vocals, with special guests on the album being Mark Campbell (tuba and jug) and Bruce Johnson (harmonica).
He was turned on to the sounds of Mississippi by his grandfather, who was a sharecropper, and growing up in Florida his music mixes the swamp blues of the area, together with the more traditional Mississippi delta blues. His musical development also includes time spent busking on Beale Street in Memphis.
Proceedings get under way with a cracking medley of two copper-bottomed classics, “Catfish Blues” and “Backdoor Man”, his urgent, stabbing guitar and drums topped off with his ‘downhome’ gritty vocals. He displays some fine picking on Blind Boy Fuller’s “Rag”, with a glorious version following of the traditional “Vicksburg Blues”, with some sparkling harmonica here from Bruce Johnson. Fellow guest Mark Campbell features on a sprightly romp through Washboard Sam’s swinging “Wrong Woman”, with a sweet “Hesitation Blues”, an oft-covered gem, most famously associated with Rev. Gary Davis.
Prestage kicks up a storm on “Sloppy Drunk”, before displaying more nifty guitar work on his own song, the title cut, “Real Music” . . . an ode to the roots music we love! Buck Washington’s obscure “Save The Roach For Me” again features tuba and jub man Mark Campbell, as does Skip James’ “Lazy Lazy Bones”, with more lovely harmonica from Bruce Johnson.
The dark, brooding Johnny Cash tune, “God Is Gonna Cut You Down” is an album highlight, as is Prestage’s own “The Ambitious”, featuring more fine guitar work and tough vocal. “Darktown Strutters’s Ball” is a vaudeville-flavoured bouncy number which swings in fine style. The ‘hidden’ track – not listed on the sleeve – is a slide guitar and harmonica-driven “Someday Baby”, another gem! This great album closes with another rag in the shape of Rev. Gary Davis’s “Buck Rag”, a brief instrumental with just Prestage’s picked acoustic guitar.
Currently out on a major 17-date UK tour with Ian Siegal, this is the perfect companion for those who have caught Ben Prestage live or still have the treat to come . . . “Real Music” indeed, and highly recommended!