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Benjy Ferree - Leaving the Nest

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Artist: Benjy Ferree

Album: Leaving the Nest

Label: Planaria

Review date: May. 8, 2006

Benjy Ferree may hail from our nation’s capital, but his real inspiration seems to come from across the Atlantic. His debut EP Leaving the Nest suggests nothing so much as an American take on the upbeat acoustic pop concocted by Paul McCartney and Ray Davies. While there are certainly elements of Americana in Ferree’s sound – plaintive fiddles, out-of-tune harmonicas, and a Johnny Cash cover (“A Little at a Time”) – his sing-song melodies clearly owe much to his British forbears. Hints of Davies and early Marc Bolan also shine through in his vocal delivery, while the plentiful backing harmonies that populate the album have Beatles written all over them.

Luckily, Ferree is a strong enough performer to keep Leaving the Nest from feeling like mere homage. Despite being only 26 minutes long, the album makes an uncommonly strong impression. Ferree has a clear gift for fashioning hooky melodies, and each track contains a surplus. The musical ground covered here is considerable as well: not content to settle with one memorable motif, Ferree delivers up several at a time by dividing his songs up into clearly distinct but coherent sections, consistently throwing out enough melodic ideas to keep things interesting. The title track, for one, shifts between a George Harrison-inspired slide guitar lead, a bluesy droning verse, and a sing-along chorus: the elements seem irreconcilably different, but somehow Ferree manages to stitch them all together.

Leaving the Nest is most impressive due to its density: Ferree crams into 26 minutes a wealth of melodies and hooks to make most full-length LPs look dull in comparison. It’s idyllic and upbeat without being sappy (complete with two whistling solos), comfortably familiar and yet well-executed enough to merit a listen even from the most jaded pair of ears. Benjy Ferree may not have a particularly unique or innovative sound, but he’s clearly hit on a winning formula.

By Michael Cramer

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