There are things we all either put off, or keep meaning to get round to. I’ve been meaning to paint my garden shed for quite a while now, while the borders need weeding. One thing is for sure though, it won’t take me the thirty years its taken Ben Watt to get round to it.
To be fair, it’s unlikely that Ben Watt looked upon making what he describes as ‘simply a folk-rock record in an electronic age’ as onerous as weeding the beds or painting the shed, and he has been pretty busy in the intervening 30 years, as one half of Everything But The Girl and running influential house label Buzzin’ Fly, and worldwide DJ.
Last year though, Watt announced he was clearing the decks (so to speak) to finish two long-held creative projects. The first was his second book, Romany and Tom, a portrait of his parents out now published by Bloomsbury, his second – the long-awaited solo album, Hendra, which comes out on his own label Unmade Road (through Caroline International) on 14th April.
Recorded in both London and Berlin, Hendra marries two styles – on one side this folk and rock, and on the other shimmering electronica. Not a surprise maybe given both his and EBTG
‘s switch between them as their careers progressed, it was only a matter of time perhaps that an amalgamation would take place. Perhaps it happened now because of the collaborators on the record – on one side ex-Suede guitarist Bernard Butler
and on the other Berlin based producer Ewan Pearson
Ben’s explains the record and the long gap since its predecessor as ‘Sometimes I laugh and think it could be the definition of the difficult second album; it has certainly been a long time coming,’ Ben says. ‘Some might see it as a strange fork in the road after Buzzin’ Fly, but everything for me has always been about finding a truthful and vivid point of connection with an audience – whether on dancefloors or in folk clubs. Words, beats and notes – it’s all we have. It’s just a question of playing them in what feels like the right order at the right time, and at the moment, ‘Hendra’ just feels right.’
Taken from the album, the title track is streaming over on Soundcloud and youtube.
It opens with this static electronica followed by a picked guitar over which Butler toys with the listeners emotions, weaving the blues into the track, before this aching solo is enough to tip you over the edge. Watt’s voice might not be strong (emotive and believable mind), but his writing is, and the thought and emotion behind it is as well. It’s verging on breathtaking.
Might even inspire me to get out into the garden.
Catch Ben Watt and Bernard Butler in a string of live dates across the country – details below.
Feb 23 – London, St Pancras Church
– SOLD OUTFeb 24 – London, St Pancras Church – SOLD OUTApril 15 Sheffield, Greystones
April 16 Newcastle, Cluny 2
April 17 Liverpool, East Village Arts Club
April 18 Hebden Bridge, Trades Club
April 19 Cambridge, Junction 2
April 21 Nottingham, Bodega
April 22 Guildford, Boileroom
April 23 Norwich, Arts Centre