EditorialFor the love of music


For when you’re feeling social


Craig Clemens

July 28, 2015

This piece originally ran in Spectrum Culture

This could be the Nashville-renaissance I’ve been waiting for. Personally, I’ve always been disappointed
with the decline of this former bastion of Americana. For too long the biggest and most creatively interesting thing to break out that scene was Kings of Leon and the Civil Wars. But with the decline of
these acts, the entrenching of Jack White and Third Man into the scene, filling the void of a committed,
contemporary and creative label in the city, straight ahead country acts like Kacey Musgraves and Ashley
Monroe gaining critical acclaim outside of the country establishment, and acts like Moon Taxi pushing
some barriers around, it feels like the underground scene in Nashville finally has some air to breathe.
Old hands, like the ones of Benjamin A. Harper, who released the new LP {Get Thee Behind Me} on July
24th, have the space to work and flex the muscles of his own personal taste.

His first solo release after 14 long years after playing around Nashville with relatively unknown acts such as Feable Weiner, The Comfies, The Nobility, Bravo Max and his own Soul/R&B project Magnolia Sons,
Get Thee Behind Me does more to distance itself from its Nashville roots than celebrate them. The title track itself sounds more at home in the middle of a My Morning Jacket record than the lead track of a record that looks, at least from the cover art, like it may contain more than a few folk-country bangers. Whining “Get Thee Behind Me” over almost orchestral arrangements the track seamlessly devolves into a sad piano outro that sounds like it could be taken from the Amélie soundtrack. It’s the second track, “The Queen”, where Benjamin’s influences truly shine. Pulling on lyrical tropes of the Kinks “Addicted to the service of the Queen/ Clap your hands if you know what I mean”, vocal expression of David Bowie and Elvis Costello, and a sort of irreverent retro pop rhythmic feel the track moves in and out of its own psychedelic freak out before ending almost prematurely and without any reasoning.

The whole record takes this feel and experiments with it. Sometimes it works out; sometimes it seems a
little over-the-top. While songs like “Leave This Place Alone” does a great job of channeling its inner Elvis Costello and creates a contemporary take on the style. Tracks like “There Is No Curse” may reach a little too far and fall flat. Very clearly pulling on Abbey Road-era Beatles, this track is just trying too much at once – and while it is a very admirable attempt at the style it ends up leaving the listener wanting more, but ultimately knowing that the only way to get it is to actually listen to Abbey Road.

The old adage of reaching for the moon and landing among the stars applies aptly to Benjamin A. Harper
and his debut LP. Although, this collection of reworked demos he’s put together over the past decade or
so does read like an anthology of a very creative mind, the influences he’s pulling on do more to weigh
his music down than to offer a shoulder to stand upon – even if, at times, he does it so well.
Coincidentally, this applies equally to the Nashville scene itself. If only they were able to shake the
ghosts of the past, the talent is there to do something truly creative and masterful. Get Thee Behind Me might be the beginning of a wave of the Nashville-renaissance I’ve been waiting for, or it could just be another treasure left behind from when the last wave went back out to sea.