Ben de la Cour must drink the same water Danny Schmidt drinks. Maybe they don't really sound all that much alike, de la Cour singing on a lower register and without Schmidt's unique vocal style, but their music comes from the same well to a larger than normal degree. They both delve into the poetic side of folk storytelling and each in his own way brings their stories to life. And don't be fooled. Neither just picked up a guitar and started singing. They listened and they learned and they accumulated until the music began acclimating itself to the songs. The simple fact is that every musician develops a process which, over time, defines him or her. They develop signatures.
At this point in time, de la Cour's signature lies in his voice: soft and lower range with gentle edges tuned to his songs. Those songs are steeped in the modern folk style, having echoes of early Gordon Lightfoot and even folk groups like The Brothers Four or The Kingston Trio (mostly sans harmonies, of course). They look at life from the outside in rather than the inside out (or maybe it's the other way around), finding inspiration in the story rather than the personal. Sure, love is there as well as pain and loneliness and the typical reflections, but they are not the focus. You can chalk one up for de la Cour. The focus is not the me, but the they.
There is an almost Walt Disney feel to some of the songs presented here. The Ballad of John Runner, for instance, conjures up the night time ride of a caped horseman racing toward some unknown end (but is actually a folk tale about murder and more), and the almost medieval aspects of The Martyr are (to the modern folk fan) all too evident. There is a lighter side too, even though the subject matter can be dark (Sobriety and the Woman). There is a manic side (the distorted and plodding instrumental, Rabbit Starvation). And there is more.
The Danny Schmidt reference? Schmidt fans will not be able to listen to I Went Down to Dido or Down in Babylon without hearing shades of what has made Schmidt a front runner on the folk and acoustic circuit. De la Cour didn't plan it that way. It just happened. And it's not a bad place to start. Not Bad at all.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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