Record Of The Week # 43

May 16, 2018

Ben Bostick – Hellfire

So you roll into a bar and on stage is your dream band. They’re loud, irreverent, tight, menacing and probably on the wrong side of too many shots of whiskey. Welcome to Ben Bostick and his sublime band (Hellfire Boys) on his second album, Hellfire. However this isn’t just a bunch of good time journeymen troubadours; Bostick is the real deal.

Bostick put together this album after a residency at a bar in LA and it fits the forte of the band perfectly. John Would (Warren Zevon and Fiona Apple) co-produced the album and the ‘live’ feel is evident from the first song. This sound was achieved by the band arranging themselves in a circle in the studio and playing live, without headphones, using stage monitors to hear the vocals. I was transported to Memphis, Sun Studios, as the energy hits you in waves like a series of short jabs.

However, it was in California that this South Carolina raised tour de force recorded these eleven tracks. You get the full nine yards of Americana – Country, Rock, Rockabilly and probably other sub genres that I’m not sufficiently engaged in to drag out here. Bostick’s other talents lie in being able to pen a superb lyric. He’s an English graduate with credentials in creative writing. Don’t worry – he doesn’t get precious but has an ability to find a killer couplet and perfect description.

“No Show Blues”starts the album with an off key plaintive howl. 

“I’m gonna go to the bank and cash out my account

Drive straight to the tavern and drink a disgusting amount

Spin my pistol and baby you better look out

Cuz wherever it points I’m coming to your town”

And welcome to the band – Kyle LaLoneon guitar shows his chops with a sizzling guitar solo as Luke Miller on a Nicky Hopkins-esque honky tonk piano adds flourishes in front of the driving rhythm of Cory Tramontelli’s bass and Perry Morris’ drumming.A wicked start.

If that was Americana then we’re headed for pure Johnny Cash Country with the title track, “Hellfire”. If you check the internet you’ll see a wonderful Bostick rendition of “Folsom PrisonBlues” and he brings a lot of that vocal and phrasing to this composition. The feel is just right not least with those thrashy and thumping drums. The lyrics are sublime with a 1960’s story of cold feet at the prospect of marriage and the dissolute solution of getting drunk in-between trips to church seeking redemption for his sinful ways! “Tornado” continues this style but this time he plays the hapless victim of a gal whose impact is this type of inclement weather.

“No Good Fool” is probably the most commercial song with his rich baritone tones warning his paramours that he’s good fun for the night but less reliable as a long term prospect. Maintaining that high energy the band cooks with Miller adding organ to the piano which continues to add texture and interest to the whole sonic picture.

“The Outsider” has angular guitar and deep resonating bass, which is more Iggy Pop than Music Row and pulls together the attitude of the album. This is how Bostick feels about himself and he’s said that in the confusion of what really constitutes Country music these days then maybe this is where his music falls. If you like your Country to have a slightly jagged edge with its feet definitely in contemporary Americana then pull up a seat; you will feast long and hard.

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